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ASSISTANT DIUECTOll U. S. XATl().\,y^^\Oi£?^'^^L La^^^ 








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Title. ^"g"- 
I. The Otster-Industrt — Desckiptive axd Statistical Reports. 

A. The Maritime Provinces of Canada 3 

1. Geographical jjosition and character of the oyster-beds 3 

2. Marnier of procuring the oysters "^ 

3. Future of the oyster-beds and oyster-trade 8 

B. Gulf of Maine ^^ 

4. Former extent and condition of the native beds in the gulf of Maine — evidence of Indian shell-heaps 11 

5. The time and causes of the extinction of the oyster in the gulf of Maine 16 

6. History of the natural oyster-beds in the gulf of Maine since the settlement of the coast by Europeans 19 

7. Oyster-culture in the gulf of Maine 21 

8. History and present condition of the oyster-trade at Wellfleet and vicinity 23 

9. History and present condition of the oyster-trade of Boston 27 

10. The oyster-trade of Salem, Massachusetts, and vicinity 31 

11. The oyster-business of Newbury port - •''^ 

12. The oyster-business of tbc New Hamjjshire coast 32 

13. The oyster-business of Portland, Maine - 34 

14. The natural beds of Sheepscot Bridge, Maine 35 

C. The South Coast of Massachusetts 36 

15. Oyster-culture iu Buzzard's bay and Vineyard sound 36 

It). The oyster-laws of Massachusetts ^3 

D. Taunton River and Cole's River, Massachusetts 44 

17. Oyster-culture and oyster-trade on Massachusetts affluents of Narraganset bay 44 

E. Coasts of Rhode Island 46 

18. Legal regulations of Rhode Island oyster-fishery 46 

19. The planting-grounds of Narraganset bay 51 

20. Southern oysters : transplanting and trade ^3 

21. Native and seed oysters ^4 

22. Enemies of the oyster in Narraganset bay 5" 

23. Statistics of the oyster-trade of Rhode Island ^ 

F. Eastern Coast of Connecticut 58 

24. Oyster-industries east of New Haven "^^ 

25. Early oyster-trade at New Haven "' 

26. Origin and development of the southern trade ^1 

27. Native oysters and oyster-planting iu the vicinity of New Haven 63 

28. Present condition of oyster-culture iu the vicinity of New Haven 66 

29. Laws of Connecticut relating to oysters. ^' 

30. Limitations of oyster-culture iu the New Haven region ''^ 

31. Oyster-culture at Milford "8 

32. Methods of catch and disposal "^ 

G. The Housatoxic and Saugatuck Regions 85 

33. Oyster-fisheries of Bridgeport and Westport 85 

H. The East Riatjr and Peconic Bay 88 

34. Oyster-interests from Hell Gate to Port Jefferson, New York, and Norwalk, Connecticut 88 

35. Peconic bay, or Easteru Long Island ^ 

I. The South Shore of Long Island - 98 

36. The Great South bay district 98 

37. The Rockaway district 108 

J. Nf-W York Bay (excluding the city of New York) 1'" 

38. History of oyster-iudustries of New York bay 1 1^ 

39. Oyater-industriesofNew York bay; 1879-'80 114 



Titli-. P.1R0. 

I. This Oystbis-Industuy — Cortinued. 

K. Oyster-Tkade of New York City lyi 

40. Historical sketch of the oyster-trade of New York city ^ j.jj 

41. The oy.ster-trade of New York in lti80 j.2G 

L. Coast ok New Jersey _ l:i4 

4i. Oyster-industries of the New Jersey "bays " ];i4 

M. Delaware Bay 144 

43. New Jersey and Delaware shores of Delaware bay 144 

N. Oyster-Interests of Philadelphia 154 

44. The merchants and oyster-business of Philadelphia 154 

O. Maryland and Baltimore 1.56 

45. Oyster- fisheries of Maryland 150 

46. Packing and shipping trade of Maryland 165 

47. Statistical summary for Baltimore 170 

48. The oyster-laws of Maryland 17'i 

P. Coasts of Virginia 180 

49. Oyster-fisheries and oyster-packing 160 

Q. The Southern Atlantic Coast 188 

50. The oyster-prodncts of North Carolina 188 

51. Oyster-fisheries of South Carolina 190 

52. Oyster-fisheries of Georgia 190 

53. Oyster- interests of East Florida 192 

E. The Gulf of Mexico 193 

54. Oyster-interests of West Florida 193 

55. Oyster-industries of Alabama 195 

56. Oyster-industries of Mississippi and Louisiana 197 

57. Oyster-industry of Texas :i00 

S. The Pacific Coast 201 

58. Oyster-industries of California 201 

T. Utilization of Oyster-shells 205 

59. Shell-lime and other applications of oyster-shells i 205 

II. The Natural History of the Oyster. 

U. General Natur.\l History 209 

60. The growth and habits of the American oyster of the Atlantic coast 209 

V. Fatalities to which the O vstkr is subject 225 

61. Living enemies of the oyster 225 

62. Fatalities to which oysters are subject 237 

III. Glossary of Terms. 

W. An Oysterman's Dictionary 241 

63. Phrases and words descriptive of mollusks and other invertebrates of the Atlantic coast 241 

iV. General Summary. 

X. Statistical Tables 251 

64. Table showing, by states, the persons employed, capital invested, and value of products of the oyster- 

industry 251 



XXX.. Giant oyster, 14 inches long, from Damariseotta river, Maine , 

XXXI. Oyster tongs and nippers 

XXXII. Incloscil dock for oyster-vessels at Perth Amboy, New Jersey — "The Creek" at Keyport, New York, with oyster-boats, 
skiiFs, and scows 

XXXIII. Oyster-barges at the foot of \V<!st Tenth street, North river, Now York city 

XXXIV. A Lake's bay shipping-honse and "platform" for freshening oysters, Smith's Landing, Lake's bay. New Jersey 

XXXV. Chesapeake oyster-dredges, with windlass 

XXXVI. Baltimore oyster-shucking trough. — Oyster-knives of divers patterns, used in New England, New York, and the 

Chesapeake region 

XXXVII. Development of the oyster, Figs. 1-16 

XXXVIII. Do. do. do. 17-32 

XXXIX. Do. do. do. 33-42 

XL. Do. do. do. 43-52 

XLL Do. do. do. 53-66 

XLIL Do. do. do. 67 














Description of the eastern coast of New Brunswick. — It is well known that eastern New Brunswick 
and the adjoining islands are the home of a breed of oysters, separated from those of the New England coast by 
more than a thousand miles of shore line. 

In a study of the oysters of the United States, it is important to glance at this distant scene of their growth and 
industry, but more than a general view of the subject is not compatible with the jiurposes of the present report. 

The eastern coast of the province of New Brunswick is washed by the waters of the gulf of St. Lawrence. At 
cape Tormentine the coast trends eastward, along Nova Scotia, to the Gut of Canso, and then turns sharjily north- 
ward, on the western side of Cape Breton island, which bars out the Atlantic. This part of the gidf is a great 
bight, with Anticosti island on the north, and Cape Breton on the east. Down in the bottom of the bight, so to 
speak, lies the long irregular shape of Prince Edward island, between which and the mainland flow the shallow but 
troublesome currents of Northumberland strait. 

The shores of New Brunswick and Prince Edward are, for the most part, low bluffs of reddish soil, and sloping 
meadows. There is little solid rock, few prominent headlands, but a generally continuous line of shore, shelving 
very gradually into water nowhere deep. Many rivers come down along the coast of the gulf, and at the mouth of 
each there is an estuary or inlet, proportionate to the size of the stream, from the mighty channel of the St. Lawrence 
to the miniature bay of Bedeque. With the exception of two or three of the greater ones, all these inlets are so 
shallow that it is easy to pole a raft anywhere, and they are usually protected from the swell of the outer sea and 
the fury of the gales by a barrier of islands, or by projecting headlands and bars. This condition of things seems 
highly favorable for oyster-growth, since nearly all of these inlets contain colonies of these mollusks. 

Shippegan and Caraquette to Pictou. — Beginning at the north, on the coast of New Brunswick, the most 
distant point at which 1 could ascertain that oysters had ever been discovered, was in the rear of Miscou island, at 
Shippegau, and in Caraquette bay, a harbor on the southern shore of the bay of Chaleurs. 

In 18-i9, Mr. Perley, the queen's commissioner, reported to the government: 

Some oysters of very large size and good quality are found al Tabusiutac ; but those of the finest description arc found on extensive 
hcds in Shippegan harbor, .St. Simon's inlet, and Caraquette bay, from which localities they are exported every season to Quebec. The 
number of bushels exported from the port of Cara<iuette during the last eight years, is as follows : 

1S41 5,000 

lfc42 7,000 

18-13 5, '290 

1844 6,000 

1845 2,010 

1846 1,915 

1847 4-.'5 

1848 5,432 

Twenty years later, ]\Ir. Venning, inspector of fisheries, wrote: "In Shippegan and Caraquette, close time for 
the protection of the oyster-beds has, for the time (18G9), been iiartially enforced. These beds are extensive 
and widely separated, and it is a matter of much difBculty to prevent occasional violations of the law." Again, 
Professor "Whiteaves* was informed that oysters had been taken upon the flukes of anchors, in seven fathoms of 
water, "between Little and Big Caraquette banks, in the bay of Chaleurs." I see no reason why they should not 
also be found at the mouth of the Nipisiguit river, farther up the bay, on the same shore. South of Miscou and 
Shippegan "gullies" the coast seems too bold a one for oysters in great plenty, until Miramichi bay is reached, the 
whole interior of which is fall of these mollusks. This is especially true along the south sliore, where there are 
many islands, and at the innermost shallow extremity of the bay, where the Miramichi river comes in. Bettaouiu 
is a particularly rich locality. Having rounded Escumiuac cape, the headland .south of Miramichi bay, a grou]) 

"Canadian XatiiraliBt, vii, 344. 


of islands is soou reached, lying off the coast and parallel with it, under the shelter of which, in Kouchibouguac and 
Eichibucto harbors, there is an abundance of beds. Passing on southward, along the shore of Northumberland 
strait, Buctouche, Cocaigne, and Shediac bays follow in productive succession, beyond which there are no beds 
reported, until cape Tormentine is passed and the shallow coast of Nova Scotia is reached, extending from Pugwash 
to Pictou. These last two localities are of small account, and close the list for the mainland. 

Prince Edwaed island. — Prince Edward island, however, is almost engirdled with oysters and their remains, 
except at the western end, where the precipitous red banks that give so picturesque an aspect to this coast, are 
unsuitable for oyster-growth. The localities where beds exist, or have existed, on the island are: Cascumpeque, 
Richmond bay, Grand river, and the Narrows, in a group; Malpeque, the harbor of New London, Hillsborough bay 
and river near Charlottetowu, and Bedeque and Egmout bays. In addition to these main localities there is an 
almost continual line of shallow and sheltered coves and inlets, around the whole eastern coast of the island, where 
extinct or semi-fossil beds of oysters are to be found, embracing nearly every tidal bay or outlet. 

Cape Breton and Nova Scotia. — Crossing now over to Cape Breton, a glance at the map will remind the 
reader that the whole interior of the island is occupied by the Bras d'Or, which enters by two narrow channels 
from the northeast, with Boulardrie island between them. "The Bras d'Or is the most beautiful salt-water lake 
I have ever seen, and more beautiful than I had imagined a body of salt water could be," says Mr. Charles 
Dudley Warner, in BaddecJc and That Sort of Thing. "The water seeks out all the low places, and ramifies the 
interior, running away into lovely bays and lagoons, leaving slender tongues of laud and picturesque islands, and 
bringing into the recesses of the land, to the remote country farms and settlements, the flavor of salt and the fish 
and mollusks of the briny sea. There is very little tide at any time, so that the shores are clean and sightly for 
the most part, like those of a fresh- water lake. It has all the pleasantness of a fresh-water lake, with all the 
advantages of a salt one. In the streams which run into it are the speckled trout, the shad, and the salmon; out 
of its depths are hooked the cod and the mackerel, aiul in its bays fattens the oyster. This irregular lake is about 
one hundred miles long, if you measure it skillfully, and in some places ten miles broad ; but so indented is it, that 
I am not sure but one would need, as we were informed, to ride one thousand miles to go round it, following all 
its incursions into the land." 

Here, as might be expected, the oyster lives in plenty, from St. Ann's to Mira river and St. Peter's bay. 

"The few oysters to bo met witli off Nova Scotia," according to Purdy, "occur at Jeddore head, twenty or 
twenty-five miles east of Halifax harbor; also Country harbor, St. Mary's river, and Liscombe harbor, Guysboro' 
county, on the outside, and Pictou harbor, John river, Wallace, Charles river, and Pugwash (mentioned above), in 
Northumberland straits." 

This catalogue appears to embrace the whole region known where oysters occiu-. In none of his dredging 
expeditions upon the Dominion's vessels did Professor Whiteaves meet with "traces even of oysters in any part of 
the area between Cape Breton and Prince Edward island, nor in any part of Northumberland straits, where the 
bottom is deeper than 5 or G fathoms— that is to say, not in any of the opeu parts". In a letter printed in the 
Canadian Xafnrali:^ for 1874, hereafter frequently to be referred to, the Hon. W. H. Pope, of Summerside, Prince 
Edward island, reiterates this assertion, but adds: 

Some years asQ I observed a quantity of oyster-sliells on the sand at the north end of Tryon shoals (which are situated on the south 
side of the island); they were about a qii-arter of a mile from the shore. Some of the shells were filled with s.ind more compact than 
some of our sandstone rocks. When I iirst observed these shells, my opinion was that they been washed ashore from beds situated 
in the deep water of the straits of Northumberland. It has since occurred to me that they arc in situ, and are the remains of an ancient 
oyster-bed which had been destroyed by the sand. The existence of a soft, mnddy bottom in the vicinity of these shells, supports tho 
supposition that at some period this muddy bottom was more extensive than at present ; that the oyster-bed was then formed, and was 
destroyed by the encroachment of the sand formin;; the Tryon 

Whiteaves on the southern fauna of the gulf of St. La-wrence. — A suggestion of how it may be 
possible for oysters and so many other southern-dwelling mollusks to inhabit a sea so far north, and apparently so 
exposed to the arctic ice and freezing currents that sweep down past Labrador, as are these, is made by Whiteaves 
in the following paragraph : 

On the admiralty charts of the gulf of St. Lam-enco an irregular lino of CO-fiithoms soundings may be seen to extend from 
a little above the northern extremity of tho island of Capo Breton, round the Magdalen group, and thence in a westerly direction 
■ to Bonaveutnro island. To the south .and southwest of this line the water is uniformly sh.allow, while to tho north, 
northwest, and northeast the water deepens r.apidly, and in some places precipitously. Dawson suggests that tho subcarbon- 
iferous rocks of which the M.agdalen islands are composed, and which .appear again in the mainland. In Bonaventure county, m.ay 
possibly cross up under the sea in the area between the northwest side of Cape Breton and the mainland of New Brunswick, as well .as 
that of the counties of Bonaventure and Oasp^i, in the province of Quebec. This may account for the sh.iUowness of the water in tho 
.area in question. Wlietlier this is the case or not, it seems not improbable that the submarine plateau inside of this line of shallow 
soundings may form a natural barrier to those arctic currents which sweep down the straits of Belle Isle in a southwesterly direction, 
and may tend to deflect their course in a bold curve into and up the river St. Lawrence. 

Size and quality of Canadian oysters.— The oysters of this region are of large size, and have thick, 
strong shells. Oysters of eight or ten inches in length are not extraordinary. I have heard of shells dredged 
fi'OMi exllnct beds "as long as your f(u-earm", but I saw none of these monsters. The best are those which 


Lave straight and narrow or eveuly-rounded shells, and grow singly. "When the oysters grow in clusters, the 
fishermen consider it a sign of degeneracy. Tliat, as a rule, the oysters found nowadays are smaller than those 
taken by the last generation, is probably a tradition, without better foundation than other popular suppositions 
that we live iu degenerate d?lys ; the old shells dredged from the mud show no gigantic proportions. 

The oysters diil'er iu taste, and consequently in quality, with the locality. Those from Shediac, Bedeque, and 
Eichmond bays are esteemed most highly, because they are of firm substance and strongly saline flavor. Those 
from the other beds are of fresher flavor, and some, for instance those in Hillsborough river, are disliked, because 
"thin and watery". This seems due mainly to the fact that they are subjected to more fresh water than is good 
for them when the tide is out. The oysters of poorest quality of all, according to common report, come from the 
Eichibucto region, although there is the deepest water in which I have known them to be taken.* 

Character of the beds. — The depth of water in which they live varies, from places so shallow that they 
are left quite exposed by the lowest tides, to a depth of 40 feet. This last is reported from Eichibucto. Perhaps 
the average depth may be put at 10 feet.t 

The oysters occur in beds of varying size and shape. Some of them will be only a few rods, others several 
acres in extent. The slow accumulation of living upon dead oysters, the drifting of the sediment, and the growth of 
other organisms, have built many of these beds almost up to the suiface, leaving a deep channel between neighboring 
colonies. The foundations of such beds have been proved to be in some cases more than 20 feet below their crests. 
Here and there, however, as in some parts of Eichmond bay, and at Oaraquette, the beds appear to be less well 
defined and of more modern origin. The height which the oyster-beds attain above the general level of the 
bottom, probably furnishes a solution of the well observed fact, that the ice becomes unsafe over an oyster-bank, 
while it is firm elsewhere ; the ridge of the beds would, form cuiTents in the tides that would wear the ice over 
them with more force and rapidity than elsewhere. 

These oysters seem to have few enemies. In a list of animals found associated with this mollnsk on the beds 
at Shediac, Professor Whiteaves marks the mussels, Mytilus edulis and ModioJa modiolus, the Natica heros, two 
starfishes and a sea-urchin, as " more-or less inimical"; but he adds : " So far as I could see, these do not exist in 
sufficient abundance in Northumberland straits to be of any serious disadvantage." One of the old oystermen at 
Shediac told me he had only seen three starfishes in his whole life. The shells of all sorts of bivalves here are 
almost universally perforated by a sponge, but no harm seems to ensue to them when living. 


Early oyster-fishing. — The methods of procuring oysters employed in the maritime provinces are substan- 
tially those followed in the United States, so far as the summer fishing is concerned. But in winter, oysters are 
often raked through the ice. That this is an ancient custom, appears from a paragraph in Charlevoix's History of 
North America : 

Oy fters are very Plenty in Winter on the Coafts of Acadia, anil the Manner of fifhing for them is fomething fingular. They make a 
Hole in the lee, anil they thruffc iu two Poles in fuch a Manner, that they have the Efleot of a Pair of Pincers, and they felilom draw them 
lip without an Oyfter. 

The oyster-industry at Shediac. — The two most famous localities for oysters are Shediac and Summerside. 

Shediac is a village of about 801) to 1,000 people, situated on the south side of Shediac bay, an inlet from 
Northumberland straits. The harbor extends for about four miles inland, and into its upper end flow one or two 
small rivers. The outermost point of the harbor is Point du Chene, where the terminus of the Intercolonial 
railway ti'om St. John is located. The harbor of Shediac is commodious, and protected by Shediac island; but 
the depth of water is not great, and the few foreign vessels that come here annually for deals, are obliged 
to anchor off the point. Their cargoes are conveyed to them, from the mills at the head of the bay, in rafts. 
Shediac is an ancient settlement of the Acadians, and has been the scene not only of Indian battles, but of 
French garrisons, and of sanguinary conflicts between French and English, during the long contest which raged 
for the possession of these shores during the early part of the last century and previously. Once or twice, long 
ago, it was burned to the ground, and has sulfered a third conflagration since my visit. At one time it was hoped to 
make it a port of importance, but its sole fame at present rests upon its oysters ; and this is a fading glory, for the 
beds are nearly depopulated of the excellent bivalves that formerly flourished in such abundance. 

From the long railway wharf at Point du Chene, itself founded upon oyster shells, the beds once existed in 
thick succession along both shores of the bay, and for some distance up the Shediac river, clear around to the 

•Oysters are abundant at C'ocaigue, Biictouche, Eichibucto, Burnt Church, and other ])laces on the coast, but in general they are 
too far withiu the mouths of fresh-water streams, and their quality is greatly inferior to those afi'ected by sea-water only. — PEKLiiY. 
Seport on the Fisheries, 1849. 

t You inquire : " Do you thint oysters would thrive in somewhat deeper water than that in which they are now fouud, if sown there ? " 
I think they would thrive in the deepest part of any inland water, if placed upon suitable ground. — Pope. Letter to Whiteavea, 
Canadian Naturalist, yii, 347. 


Grandiqne, a stream that empties into tlie northeastern corner of the bay. The number of these beds is said to be 
about fifty, and they cover the soft bottom of the harbor with great mounds. 

Prociunng the services and guidance of Frauli Giuvien, I started out one dark morning to see the beds and 
the process of raking. It was raining liard, the wind was chill and fitful, and th^ general appearance of the 
surroundings somber in the extreme. The boat was a large, red, yawl-shaped one, and it lay some distance out in 
the water, hard aground, although the tide was well up. Pulling off their shoes and stockings, Giuvien and his 
assistant soon had it afloat, erected the mast, and then came to carry me on board 'poose-bacli. 

Having gone a third of a mile from shore, and crossed the deepest part of the bay (in water of 4 to 6 fathoms), we 
struck the first bed, finding it, by sounding with a pole, not more than five feet below the surface. Eamming the 
liole hard down we "hung" the boat by my holding on to it, while Giuvien thrust down his great rake, and his 
assistant his " tongs". But nothing was taken alive except one or two quahaugs, and we moved on. Trying several 
beds, all coming within a fathom or less of the surface, and some being of great extent, we succeeded in two hoiu-s 
in raking a dozen and a half of small oysters and about three dozen fine quahaugs, besides some mussels. This 
was a fair sample of the condition of the whole bay. 

The rake and tongs used do not differ from those well known to oystermen in the United States, except, 
perhaps, that they are ruder, generally being of home manufacture. 

In the winter, when the ice forms over the whole bay to a thickness of three feet or so, the oysterman finds 
his way out to a position over some of ths beds, with the location of which he is ]>erfectly familiar, and cuts a large 
hole in the ice. Through this he lowers rake and tongs, and brings uj) load after load of living mollusks and dead 
shells. Here this is the most profitable time of the year for the oysterman ; ox-, rather, it used to be. Twenty -five 
or thirty years ago, not to go further back, the trade iu oysters at this town was extensiv^e, amounting to probably 
about 1,000 barrels a year. Most of this crop was shucked and sent to St. John in kegs. In earlier times it was 
not uncommon for one man to rake up a sleigh-load of oysters, through the ice, in a single afternoon. Now 200 
bushels a year is all that is produced, and this in a very desultory fashion. No one devotes himself to it but the 
French fishermen, and farmers use their leisure in raking occasionally. 

At Eichibucto the oysters grow in the channel, and clear across the inlet, in water as deep as 35 feet. There, 
consequently, rakes are used attached to poles so long and unwieldy that they require two men for their manipulation. 
This great bay has been nearly depleted, however. In the Canadian Fisheries Eeport, Mr. J. McD. Sutherland, 
local oflicer there, wrote to Mr. Venning, inspector of fisheries, as follows : 

There are a good many oyster-beds in the river, but witli the esceptiou of one at Indian island (near to the south beach), the oysters 
are very small, and of so poor a quality, that none have been sent away for years; iu fact, they will not sell. The only beds from which 
any are taken at present, are two at Kingston bridge, and one or two fixrther up the river, and only in very small quantities, as thoy 
are of so poor a quality that it is diCScult to iind sale for them. There is a very large bed at Indian island, and the oysters are very 
large and of excellent quality; but they are scarce and hard to get. Not more 30 or 40 barrels were taken from it last year. A 
man may rake all day, and perhaps get only a bushel. There are hundreds of barrels of shells on this bed, and some farmers are making 
arrangements to get the shells off it as manure for their farms. If anything could be done to protect or increase the oysters in this 
bed, I (hink it deserves attention. The only suggestion I can offer is, that the shells and dead oysters bo removed, and raking prohibited 
for a number of years. There are some beds on which the oysters arc all dead, from which large quantities of shells are taken every year 
by tbe fiirmers. — (Page 76.) 

The present point of greatest abundance of the oyster on the mainland seems to be in Miramichi bay, at 
Bettaouin. In 187C, Giuvien went there in a small vessel, with several others from Shediac, on a raking expedition. 
They found the oysters were distributed everywhere over the harbor so thickly, that every square foot of the bottom 
seemed to be occupied. They seemed to lie in little connected clusters right upon the sand, which was so soft that 
mooring-stakes were easily driven into it. They found on the ground ships and schooners that took away over 4,000 
barrels during the single fortnight they remained. These bought their cargoes, at the rate of $1 a barrel, from the 
small boats (each operated by two men) that swarmed in the harbor. The ships took their cargoes to Quebec, 
varions small(>,r craft carried loads elsewhere, and the 65 small boats that came down there from Caraquette 
all intended to go home with full loads when the selling season closed. Four years of this onslaught have now almost 
exterminated this great oyster-community. 

So much for the mainland, where, I believe, the tongs and rake used from small boats in summer, and the rake 
thi'ough the ice iu winter, upon wild beds, every man owning his own implements and fishing for his own good 
at odd moments, comprise the whole of oysteriug. 

The oyster-industry of Prince Edward island. — Crossing now to Prince Edward island, a somewhat 
more systematic, if not more scientific, pursuit of this industry is to be seen. The headquarters of the business is 
at Summerside, a small, wooden, unattractive town of about 800 inhabitants, situated at the extremity of Bedeque 
bay, on the southern side of the island. It is a landing place of the steamers from Shediac, and also of the line to 
]\Iontreal. This district was originally settled by French ; but when the island was ceded to Great Britain, these 
people were expelled, and the inhabitants are now almost wholly Scotch and English. From Summerside are sent 
the famous "Bedeque" oysters, so culled from the bay in which they were found. 

The true Bedeque oysters are, however, now extinct, or at least so nearly so as to be entirely unprofitable for 
raking. The bay is an inlet half a dozen miles long, in which the water is nowhere more than J or 1 lathoms deep, 


except ill tlie cbaunel tliiit leads to the whai'ves of tlie fort. The whole sandy bottom of this bay is described as 
formerly one vast oyster-bed. At the upper eud it was so shallow that, when the tide was out, even ehildreu might 
wade about and pick up oysters, which were often found clinging to the eel-grass, with their hands; such oysters 
were the best of all. Fiually, the head of the bay became so choked up, that in the winter, at low tide, the ice 
was let down until it rested full weight upon the beds. But now the bay has lost its ancient suitability as a 
home for the bivalves, and few remain. " Bedeque" oysters, therefore, like those of the once-celebrated " Poricr" 
bed at Shediac, now come from elsewhere, but still pass in the market under the brand-name by which they attained 
their fame for excellence. The chief source of supply at present is Richmond bay, an inlet on the north shore 
formed by the union of several estuaries and filled with islands and sand-bars. That region, however, has many 
subdivisions. It consists of a great, irregular, interior basin of shallow water, sending its arms back into the country 
in all directions, and receiving long, wooded capes that jut out and form sheltered bays in great number. The 
water-access from the ocean to this lake is through Malpequc bay and the Narrows. The term "Richmond bay" is 
really restricted to the innermost part of it, while the western portion is called Grand river. The shores are low, 
the bottom is soft, sandy mud, and no force of the outside storms ever penetrates these calm recesses. Here then, 
if anywhere, ought we to find oysters, and here they occur in vast numbei-s. 

The people who live on the shores of this broad estuary are of varied nationality, and nearly all own farms, or 
cultivate the land for others. They may therefore be called farmers, as a class. But in the spring for a little while, 
and from the first of September until Xovember seals the water under its icy cover, they all become oystermen. 
A few of them own small sail-boats, two-masted or sloop-rigged, worth from $30 to $50, and of far more use than 
beauty. As a rule, however, they go out to the beds in rude, flat bottomed, square-sterned, awkward boats, called 
"flats". These are worth 810 each, and every fiimily owns at least one, with its oars and the anchor. Rakes or 
dredges are not used at all here ; only- a pair of tongs, worth about 82 50. It does not require much capital, 
therefore, to enter upon the business.* 

Oyster fishing begins on September 1 and lasts until the ice forms. On this island no fishing through the ice is 
practiced, and all that is done, with the exception of a few days in the spring, must be done at once. During this 
season, therefore, all else is pretty much abandoned, and four or five hundred persons will be found engaged in the 
work in the western half of the island; it is considered a good day's work when a boat brings home in the evening 
two barrels to each of the crew. In so sheltered a place as Richmond bay the state of the weather, which is likely 
to be very rainy, chilly, and uncertain, makes little diSerence with the work. 

About one-half of the fishermen are heads of lamilies, the other half being made up of boys and young unmarried 
men, and the vagabond element. Some of the more well-to-do farmers buy on the shore the catch of the latter class, 
to a considerable extent, and add it to their own stock, paying from 50 to 80 cents a barrel on the shore. The 
main part of the catch, however, is hauled day by day to Summerside, from 2 to 10 miles distant, at an expense of 
from 10 to 15 cents a barrel, and sold to the warehouses there. Sometimes the Summerside dealers go out to the 
shore and buy, but more frequently procure what is not brought to their doors, by sending out empty barrels to 
different persons and engaging them to be filled. The barrels used are second-hand flour barrels, worth 15 to 20 
cents, and holding two and a half bushels, or from three to four hundred oysters each. The price paid for these 
oysters varies from year to year. The highest rate ever reached was in 1875, when 82 50 per barrel was paid at 
the warehouse. Since then, partly owing to the stimulus given by the high price, and the consequent increased 
supply, the price has declined, until this September (1879) it went as low as 80 cents a barrel, but recovered before 
the end of the month to $1, which may be called the average price. A stormy season will lessen the supply and 
augment the value. Little distinction is made by the warehousemen in buying in respect to locality, but in selling 
it is found that the fine single oysters from Grand river will bring a considerable advance over those from Malpequo 
and other points- The rule is : the deeper the water, the better the oyster. It is conceded that the old Bedeque 
oyster was the best of all. 

With the fall crop of oysters the farmer-fishermen exjjcct to pay for their winter's supply of provisions, chiefly 
flour. But little cash, therefore, is used in the transaction, the buyer exchanging a barrel of flour for from five to 
seven barrels of oysters. The average receipts of the oyster-fishermen are difiQcult to estimate; but those best 
competent to judge thought that the men who paid strict attention to the business received from $50 to 870 a year 
from it. This may be put down as about one-fourth of their total annual income. The working classes on the 
island think they are doing very well if they make 8300 a year. Every one of them is a year in debt. "When the 
warehouseman delivers his flour in exchange for the oysters, it is really the crop of the next fall that he is buying, 
for the oysters he has just received were owed to him for the i)revious winter's provisions. It is so with all the 
mercha-.ts in town, who obtain a good portion of the season's catch for their own use, in pay for dry-goods, 
groceiies, &c. 

The amount of cash capital involved in the business of oyster-dealing, therefore, is disproportionate to the 
apparent business done, since so great a part of it is by barter. In the vicinity of Summerside it is probably within 

' Thf dredge Las uever, to my knowledge, been employed hi the waters of Piiuce Edward island. Oysters are li.shed with " tongs " 
from depths varying from 3 or 4 feet to 12, and even 15, feet. — Pope. Letter to Whitcavcs, Ctuiadiaii yaturalist, vii, 345. 


bounds to say that $25,000 would cover tlie capital of all the dealers combined ; and they represent all the oyster- 
trade there is on the island worth mentioning. The business is not now so good as formerly, on account of the 
"hard times" that now oppress the Canadas; and a profit of 20 per cent, is considered large; but in former years 
50 per cent, of pi'ofit was often realized without much risk. 

At the eastern end of the island the only locality for oysters, within recent times, is in Hillsborough bay and its 
tributaries. This water is on the south shore, and is the harbor of Charlottetown, the chief town of the province. 
Old men remember when oysters were so abundant there that they seemed inexhaustible. Eich beds were to 
be found along the west side of Hillsborough bay, over in Orwell and Pownall bays, along the channel into the 
inner harbor, and everywhere there and up Hillsborough, East and West rivers. The finest of all grew attached 
singly to the eel-grass at the heads of the various little inlets, where one could wade out and get them; and at 
certain places the beds wpre so crowded that a boat could take eight bushels in an hoar. 

Now, however, these bays are almost depopulated of their oysters, and not more than $500 worth annually, it 
is said, are raked there. These are all used in Charlottetown, being raked and peddled by two men who make a 
scant business of it. Charlottetown, in addition, consumes nearly a thousand barrels from the western end of the 
island, esteeming her own of far poorer quality. 

Concerning the oysters of the Bras d'Or I could learn but little, but became satisfied that no trade in them 
existed, beyond a limited home consumption by those who fished and their neighbors. 


FoEMER AND PRESENT ABUNDANCE. — A few words ought now to be Said upon the relative former and present 
abundance of the oysters of this region and the causes operating toward their increase or decrease. 

To begin with: I am convinced that if it were possible to make a comparison between the actual number of 
oysters on the beds fifty years ago with the number to-day, the disparity would not be great. The production 
has changed geographically, rather than numerically. Ancient areas no longer yield so fully, but new ones have 
been discovered. 

The most famous of the old localities was Shediac, where the "Porierbed" sent to the interior settlements 
the best moUusks known. This bed lay between Shediac island and the north shore of the bay, and has been 
abandoned for many years; but a fisherman told me, he thought a week's profitable raking might be done there now. 
After the exhaustion of the Porier bed, the large, salty, fat " Bedeque" oysters were placed in the market, and 
acquired a high reputation. The demand soon exhausted them, but a few could at present be got anywhere in the 
bay, now that they have rested so long. Meanwhile the eastern end of Prince Edward island had lost its oysters, 
and those of the productive beds on the mainland were of poor quality. The shore-people began to think the era of 
good oysters had passed by. More thorough and careful search was thus stimulated, and the results were, first, 
the discovery that the beds in Cassumpeque, Malpeque, and Eichmond bays were much more extensive than had 
been supi^osed, and, second, the disclosiu'e of wholly new localities in Miramichi bay and elsewhere. 

The causes of the extinction of the old traditional beds are various. It is easy to see that the inordinate attack 
made upon the new locality of Bettaouin during the last four years will shortly be fatal to it. It has nearly proved " 
so now, just as the other natural storehouses of these mollusks along the coast have been depleted by excessive and 
heedless use.* 

On the contrary, in the extensive region on the north side of Prince Edward island, whence the trade is now 
mainly supplied, there seems to be no doubt of a steady growth in numbers, and no degeneracy in size and quality. 

Causes op extermination. — The general law of the Dominion forbids the taking of oysters, at any point, 
between the 1st of May and the 1st of September, when they are spawning. This law excites great disgust among 
the fishermen, who assert that the jjroper way to afford legal protection to the industry is to prohibit winter-fishing. 
As a result, the law is constantly broken.! The summer-raking, thoy say, does more good than harm; it is 
positively beneficial, for it stirs up the beds and contributes to their widening. In the constant moving of the boat 
the tongs or rake must rarely strike the ground twice in the same or nearly the same place, and only a few of the 
mollusks are taken here and there. " Oysters thrive on muddy bottoms," writes Mr. Pope, " but they will not live 
if imbedded in the mud. Many oyster-beds have been destroyed by mud alone. The annual fishing of oyster-beds, 
if not carried to excess, improves them. In the process of fishing the bed is broken up, the shells and oysters lifted 
out of the mud, and a supply of material (cultch) afforded, such as the oyster spat requires, and without which it 
must perish." This is undoubtedly true to a great extent, as has been proved in the United States. 

* The close time is now (1869) rigidly euforeed, but these beds (in Shediac harbor) have been so much reduced by years of indiscriminate 
raking, that a long time will elapse before they are restored. » » » The oyster-beds in Eichibucto harbor and river are now gieatly 
reduced aud almost valueless ; and the only mode of restoring thorn is to prohibit raking entirely for a number of years, or to lease them 
for natural and artificial culture. — Vennixg, Ileport on Canadian Finlierien, X870-'7C). 

t Oysters are caught and exposed for sale in every month in the year, and salmon are destroyed upon their spawning-bi>ds with the 
utmost impunity.— Pope. Letter to Whiteaves, Canadian Naturallal, vii, :i47. 


In fishiug through the ice, on the contrary, every liviii"? thnig, and most of the loose dead matter within reach of 
the long ruke, are scraped up. A barren spot of mud alone is thus left upoa the bed. In suiumer all the debris 
brought up by the tongs is thrown overboard, aud is washed clean as it sinks waveringly to the bottom, forming 
a loose layer of clean shells, etc , — precisely what the spawn needs to find support upon and cling to. It is equal 
to putting down "sto^Js". 

It appears, however, that sometimes this throwing back is a great harm, because living ones may be so few and 
the proportion of dead shells so large. Thus the local officer, Mr. John MaD. Sutherland, in Kent county, in 
lS(i!), wrote that the beds at Kichibucto had been destroyed mainly through tlie practice of throwing baclr the shells 
and dead oysters, which covered the living ones aud killed them. "I do not think," he adds, " the digging of mud 
for manure iu any way injures the oysters, as there are none in the mud so taken, but a large quantity of very small 
mussels." The ice-rakers, coatrary to this advisable method of throwing back the shells, pile the worthless stuff 
they bring up on the ice, where it either remains to be floated out to sea when the ice breaks uj), or is carted away 
to be spread on the fields. The bed is not only scraped perfectly bare of its oysters, therefore, but nothing is left 
for even the spawn to attach itself to; present and future are both destroyed. 

This is a reasonable, and I believe a true, explanation of the decline of the yield at Shcdiac and at many other 
points where it has been customary to rake in winter, so far as man's agency is concerned. The fact that the 
Eichmond bay region, which is never raked through the ice, thrives under steady spring and fell work, supports 
this notion. The midsummer rest may or may not be worth the giving, but the strength of the law should certainly 
be opposed to working through the ice. 

Many beds have ceased to produce within historical times, apparently for no other reason, than that by the 
natural process of growth, one generation of oysters resting on the dead remains of the last, has built up the 
deposit until it has come too near the surface. The clearing of the country, and the consequent increased amount 
of drifted matter and sediment brought down by the streams that empty into the estuaries where the beds are 
situated, aid to bring about this I'esult, by raising the general level of the bottom, clogging the surface of the beds, 
and thus lessening the depth of the water, until at some unusually low tide in winter the immense weight of the 
ice, is let down upon the bed, crushing and freezing all its life. This appears to be the case in the bay of Bedeque. 
As for the extensive submarine deposits of oyster-shells that girdle the eastern and northern shore of Prince 
Edward island, we do not know how old they axe nor what killed them. Possibly the general geological elevation of 
this coast brought them all too near the surface at once. I put much faith in this hypothesis. It has been said that 
drifting ice tears up the beds; but I, i>ersonally, could not learn of any appreciable damage ever occurring in this 
way. All the beds are well sheltered from the bergs and floes that swing up and down Northumberland strait, 
and follow the currents through the stormy breadth of the open gulf. It is said to be one of the most favorable 
conditions tliat conduce to the oyster-prosperity of the Malpeque region, that there the ice disappears earlier than 
from the confined southern coasts of the island. 

I fin<l some discussion of this subject by the Hon. W. H. Pope, in his communications to Professor Whiteaves, 
from Prince Edward island, already quoted by me. He says : v 

It is probable tliat mauy of the oyster-beds ceased to be productive of oysters ages before the settlement of the eouutry by Europcaiis. 
Extensive deposits of oyster-shells are now found covered by several feet of silt. How were the oysters upon these beds destroyed ? The 
natural process of reproduction and decay would cause the oyster-beds, formed on the bottom, to rise so near to the surface of the water 
that the ice would rest ou them. The weight of heavy masses of ice upon the beds would iujm-e the oysters, aud the moving of the ice, 
when forced by tide or wind across the bed, would soon destroy them. I have observed the more elevated portions of an oyster-bed over 
■which the ice had been thus forced. Several inches of the surface of the bed, including all the living oysters, had been driven before 
the ice, and the shells aud oysters so removed had been deposited in a miuiature moraine on the slope of the bed where the water was 
suflSciently deep to .allow the ice to pass over it. This crushing and grinding process would destroy many of the oysters; some would 
be crushed and broken, others smothered in the moraine. The gradual silting up of the river would prevent the running of the ice, 
and the oyster-beds would iu time be covered, as we now find them. Deposits of oyster-shells (covered with mud) 20 feet in depth, are 
found in rivers in the deepest parts of which there are not 14 feet of water. 

Oysters upon natural beds are seldom, if ever, killed by frost. I have known oysters to thrive upon a hard aud stony bottom, 
notwithstanding that the ice rested upon them once in 24 hours throughout the winter. Some of these oysters grew adherent to a small 
flat rock, about 8 inches in thickness. The oysters on the top of the rock were killed when they attained their second year's growth, I 
think, by pressure, as those on the edges were never injured by ice or cold. 

Oyster-beds iu rivers in which sawdust is thrown in large (luantities, would probably be injured by it. The sawdust would, I think, 
be carried by the current over the beds, and the roughness of their surface would detaiu some of it. The interstices between the sheila 
and oysters would probably become filled with sawdust and mud. Mud and decomposing sawdust constitute a most otleusi ve compound. 

There is another harmful influence exerted upon the oysters, however, by civilization, namely, the mud-digging. 
The whole bottom of each and all of these oyster-bays is a comminuted mixture of decom])osed shells aud vegetable 
matters, which goes under the name of mussel-mud. No one has ever sounded the full thickness of this, I think ; 
but it has been dug to the depth of 20 feet by the rude horse-power scoops that are employed to dip it up. It 
makes the best of manure, and hundreds of thousands* of loads have been spread upon the ncighboriug farms 

'During the past teu or twelve years millions of tons of oyster-shells and mud have been taken up by our farmers from oyster-beds, 
by means of dredging-machines worked by horses on the ice. In m.any instances the beds have been cut through, aud iu some places the 
deposits of shell have bccu found to be upward of 20 feet lu thickuiss. — Pope. Letter to 'Whiteaves, Canadian Xaturalint, vii, 340, 


every year. It is sold by tbe dredgers at 10 cents a load, and it costs from 10 to 15 cents a load to haul it. 
Three hundred loads a day might be raised, if demanded. In the excavation of this fertilizer two features work 
disadvantageously to the oyster. In the first place, the actual bottom is torn to pieces — the home destroyed and 
the mollusks themselves eradicated. Secondly, the operation sets free great quantities of flue silt, which spreads 
through the water far and -wide, falls upon the oysters, and smothers or chokes them. The bay has lost its ancient 
purity, and is no longer a suitable place for oyster-habitation. When, however, the work of the mud-diggers is 
completed, the excavation they leave is gradually taken possession of again by mollusks. This has happened 
particularly at West river, near Charlottetown, where the whole bottom, for a long distance, was dredged up and 
taken away, oysters and all, and it encourages belief that perhaps when Cedeque and the other bays are thoroughly 
robbed of their manuring deposits, the desirable bivalves that once inhabited them will return to their ancient 
haunts to begin a new era of existence and generation. 

Oyster-culture in the Provinces. — Nothing in the way of oyster-cultivation, properly speaking, has been 
attempted in the Provinces, that I could learn of. When the oyster dealers in St. John find themselves over- 
stocked in summer, they sometimes throw a lot of oysters overboard near Navy island, raking them up as they 
are wanted. An attempt to plant some there several years ago, resulted in all being stolen within a few months. 
Occasionally a schooner-load of oysters is brought down from Biictouche, Miramichi, or some other northern bay, 
where they are of poor quality, and are dumped for a few months in Shediac bay to "fatten". The improvement 
is said to be A-ery rapid and striking. Near Charlottetown, some years ago, a citizen took up a large quantity of 
oysters from a distant part of the harbor and laid them down near his home, forming a bed convenient to his hand, 
and the position of which was kept a secret in the family. A similar experiment in transplanting was made by 
Judge W. H. Pope, of Summerside, two or three years ago, near New London, Prince Edward island, only upon 
a more extensive scale and with a commercial view. His experiments did not wholly succeed, but seemed to show 
satisfactorily that the improvement resulting from transplantment and care would be jirofitable, if attended to on 
a large scale and in an enlightened way. 

Such desultory work seems to be all that has ever been attempted in the Provinces toward oyster-culture. No 
seed-oysters have ever been sent southward or received from the United States. They could be procured for about 
$2 a barrel at Shediac and Summerside, and there remain enough of the genuine Porier and Bedeque breeds to 
start new beds of these varieties in favorable spots elsewhere. 

Efforts toward protection. — The danger of utter extinction which menaces the mainland beds is not a 
new one. It was long ago i)ointed out that such a danger exists, and that measures ought to be taken to jneserve 
to the colonies this rich food-i'esource which was being so rapidly wasted. Mr. Perley announced it to the govern- 
ment in ISiO in these words : 

From the manuer in which the oyster-fishery of the gulf-shore is now being conducted, all the oysters of good quality will, in a few 
years, be quite destroyed. The preservation of this fishery is of considerable importance, and it might be eli'ected as well by judicious 
regulations and restrictions as by encouraging the formation of artiticial beds or layings in favourable situations. Several persons on 
the coast intimated to the writer their desire to form new and extensive beds in the sea-water, by removing oysters from the mixed 
water of the estuaries, where they are now almost worthless, if they could obtain an exclusive right to such beds when formed, and the 
necessary enactments to prevent their being plundered. 

Feeling the importance of the matter. Judge Pope's experiment on Prince Edward island, already alluded to, 
was made only in pursuit of his belief that the matter was practicable. He wrote to Professor Whiteaves in 1874 : 

The area of productive oyster-beds in the Dominion is comparatively limited and altogether inadequate to supply the demand for 
oysters, which is now enormous, and which is increasing every year. Unless the existing beds be protected aud improved, aud new beds 
formed, the day will soon come when tlie oyster-beds of the Dominion will cease to produce. « * » The rivers aud estuaries of this 
island [Prince Edward] are admirably adapted for the cultivation of oysters. The oysters found in its bays are not to be excelled in 
flavor, and if fished late in the autumn they will keep good for months. I see no reason why hundreds of thousands of acres of oyster- 
beds should not be formed in these bays, which would produce vast quantities in quality much superior to the oysters of Virginia. The 
material for the formation of such beds is at hand in the ancient ones ; the oysters with which to sow them could be had at little cost 
dui'iug the war;u, calm days of summer. 

Professor Whiteaves adds his testimony in the following paragrajjh, which refers chiefly to the mainland: 
Many once productive beds in various parts of the gulf now yield almost nothing, and there is too much reason to fear that, unless 
precautionary measures are adopted, the oyster-fisheries of the Dominion will soon becomo a thing of the past. The raking of the beds 
has been palpal)ly excessive .and wasteful ; no such thing iis cleansing the ground and scattering the during the close season has ever 
been practiced ; the pollution of the ground by refuse of mills, by silting up, and a variety of other causes, has led to the inesent state of 
ruin .and decay which we now see. Neglect, waste, and excessive cupidity have almost destroyed these oyster-beds, aud will ultimately 
entirely do so, unless remedial measures are adopted. 

With the design of fostering the oyster product and industry, Mr. Yenning, inspector of fisheries in New 
Brunswick, has made many attempts to induce the use of capital in this direction, and regulate the dredging by 
legal measures. He tried hard to get the government to divide the bay of Shediac into two equal portions, and to 
lease the oyster-privileges to responsible persons for a term of years, under regidations that vshoiild not admit of the 
extiri)ation of the mollusks. Such a hue and cry was raised by the ignorant natives, however, thtit the project had 
to be abandoned. He called a public meeting at Shediac and tried to represent how much it would be for their 
advantage to cease their destructive, indiscriminate raking, but utterly without effect. "My grandfadder rake 


oysters, my fodder he rake oysters wben lie want 'em, and by Gar! I rake him too!" That was the only argnment 
he could get. He ofi'ered to allow them to arrange that they control, in common, one of the halves of the bay, 
leaving to him the other half; but they would submit to no regulation, and listen to no suggestions toward au 
improvement of method. 

Evidence fkom tue shell-heaps of abundakce in the past. — That the oyster-beds of this region had 
been a food-resource to the Indians for many generations before white men came to these shores, is proved by the 
kjokkenmoddings or refuse shell-heaps which occur along the coasts. These relics of aboriginal homes and feasts 
also stand as evidence that formerly oyster-beds flourished where none have been known within the historic period, 
and connect the remote, isolated fields of the gulf of St. Lawrence with the oyster-bearing regions in Massachusetts 
bay and south of Cape Cod. The idea jjrevails that an elevation of the laud and sea-bottom, or a lowering of the 
average temperature of the climate to a tatal point, on the intermediate coasts, or both, have caused the death of 
the reefs which once existed. 

To the very extensive submarine beds of dead shells all through the waters of that part of the gulf between 
Cape ]5reton and Gaspe and around Prince Edward island, I have already alluded. They hardly bear upon our 
present inquiry, except to prove the extreme auti(iuity of the molhiscan ])opulatiou of that district. Passing down 
the coast, I heard of old beds and a few living oysters at Jeddore head, near Halifax, "also Country harbor, St. 
Mary's river, and Liscombe harbor, Guysboro' county, on the outside." In the bay of Fundy I could not learn of a 
single living oyster, but it appears that formerly they dwelt there. 

In his Field and Forest Rambles, Dr. A. Leith Adams tells us that he examined several shell-heaps on islands 
in the bay of Fundy and along the fiord of the St. Croix river for many miles. "Although a large number 
had evidently been leveled and utilized for top-dressing, enough remain to show that, whether as articles of food, 
bait, or both, the aboriginal races collected vast quantities of the well-known clam and qualtog, besides two species 
of oyster {Ostrea horealis and Virginiana), and the common forms of Ndtica, Crepidula, Solen, etc., the debris of which 
strew the coasts of several of the inlets in the bay of Fundy, their numbers evincing the profusion of each species. 
It has, however, been asserted by no less au authority than Dr. Gould, that all, especially the three first species, 
ai'e becoming rapidly extinct north of Cape Ann, Massachusetts " (p. 35). 

Having given the substance of the opinion of Dr. Gould and some others as to the reason for the decadence, 
Dr. Adams goes on to tell what he found in the kjokkenmoddings along the bay of Fundy, ])articHlarly at Passa- 
maqnoddy bay. The mound was one of several facing the sea on a flat, so that the waves of high tides had washed 
much of it away, "disclosing a perpendicular section composed almost entirely of clam-shells, interspersed with 
mussels, whilks, and the common Plauorbis. The former were extremely abundant, and for the most part in 
fragments; however, I procured several very large ones, averaging 3 by 4i inches in breadth, which the fishermen 
of the neighborhood told me were very much larger than any recent specimens they had .seen." He then describes 
the bones of quadrupeds, birds, and fishes that occur in these refuse-heaps, and mentions the absence of charcoal. 

This brings me to the border of Maine, and introduces the proper census inquiry into the "shell-fisheries" of 
the United States, which occupies the succeeding chapters. 




Description of the New England shell-heaps. — In beginning an account of oysters on the coasts of the 
gulf of Maine, which extends from Nova Scotia to Cape Cod, the most prominent fact in relation to them appears 
to be their former abundance in comparison with theu' present extinction. The historical aspect will, therefore, be 
the first to be considered. The readiest way to begin this is to proceed to Damariscotta, a seaport village iu 
Lincoln county, Maine, where exists the greatest monument extant to the antiquity of the oyster in these waters. 

Above the village, the Damariscotta river pursues a narrow course between precipitous banks for about a mile, 
after which it expands into a shallow basin, about one mile long by one-half to one-quarter of a mile wide, known 
as Salt bay. At its northern extremity are rapids and cataracts, formed by a rocky ledge lying across a narrow 
channel, and above this is tlie extensive fresh-water area of Damariscotta pond. The ialls at the head of Salt bay 
limit the tide, and furnish water-power for several sawing and flouring mills. 

Salt bay is nowhere more than a few feet deep, unless it be here and theie iu the direct channel, plowed out by 
the swift tide, and the bottom is gravel, or was so anciently. It is so lar inland that its waters are always 
comfortably warm, and it is, therefore, not surprising to find that it formed the cbosen home of a large and flourishing 
colony of oysters, that seem to have found there the most congenial conditions for growth. The evidence of this 
is aftorded in the great shell-heaps that have made the locality celebrated among antiquarians. 


These "Leaps" consist of piles of oyster-sliells, varying from one to six or seven feet in deptL, packed closely 
together and all ready to crumble, unless handled with great care. They begin in small quautily down nearly to 
the falls at the bridge connecting Damariscotta and Newcastle, and thence continue nninterruptedly on both sides 
of the river, up to the southern end of the bay. Here the heaps reach their greatest magnitude, and are best 
observed upon the point of land which juts out into the southwestern part of the bay. Beyond this point, however, 
scattering heaps are found along the shores. It has been estimated that not less than 8,000,000 cubic feet of shells 
are thus piled up, and easily accessible. 

It was once supposed that these beds were fossil, or that they had been formed by water in some way, and then 
elevated above the sea-level. But an examination soon dispelled this notion, which nobody now believes. Their 
position, structure, and contents, show conclusively that they are the work of human hands,* and a product of the 
very earliest American oyster-fishery of which we have any knowledge. 

' If one digs down through them, he finds at the depth of a few feet that he comes suddenly to the earth and 
gravel of the natural soil. This is seen plainly in section at several points on the western shores, where the water 
has eroded the bank. The line of demarcation between the shells and the soil is sharp ; there is no intermingling 
whatever.! In many places, however, the shells from above have slid down the face of the high bank, entirely 
concealing its face, and covering the beach below. This gives a fictitious appearance of great depth, which has 
deceived some writers upon the matter, I think. The shells are almost invariably single. In an hour's digging I 
found but one specimen where the two valves were together. They lie in all sorts of positions, in close contact 
with each other, and so loosely that it is easy to pick them out of the bank one by one.| They are all of very 
large size and some even gigantic. Shells have been taken out repeatedly that exceeded a foot in length, and one 
of 15 inches is reported. They are, as a rule, long, narrow, and somewhat curved or scimitar-shaped. Broad and 
straight ones are found, however. The shells are thick, but they flake away so in removal from the heap, that 
scarcely more than the harder, nacreous, inner layers are usually obtained. Nearly all trace of color, inside and 
out, has disappeared. 

They are not everywhere of uniform depth, but thin here and thicker there, as though cast up in heaps, and the 
soil over them is very thin, and consists only of decayed loam; but there was once a small forest of spruce trees there, 
and there still remain some very large and aged trunks and an abundance of bushes. At one place on the eastern 
side the most extensive deposits of all crown the summit of a bluff or knoll CO feet or more in height, the face of 
which seems terraced with shells, which extend back many rods from the river-bank.§ Scattered through the 
banks, also, are the shells of the soft clam, quahaug, mussel, scallop, and various other remains, as I shall mention 

When the earliest explorers lauded upon the shores of North America, tley found that the Indians of all 
regions were acquainted with the edible qualities of the various shell fish, aiid ate all that we now make use of.|| 
They understood perfectly, also, the superior value of the clam and oyster, and everywhere along the New England 
coast were accustomed to assemble at favorable points and have feasts of mollusks and maize, with much merry- 
making. That fine old institution of Rhode Island and Connecticut, the clam-bake, almost the only thing that was 
allowed to warm the cockles of a Puritan's heart, and still the joUiest festival in summer experience alongshore, 
perpetuates the practice of the aborigines. Here, in southern IMaine, appears to have been a particularly, 
favorable spot, isolated from the southern abundance of bivalves, and here the Quoddy Indians came in great 
numbers. There is every evidence that these shores were much more thickly populated by the red men than the 
coast regions either east or west of it. The word "Damariscotta" is said to mean "river of little fishes", and its 
neighboring streams were equally famous for their finny wealth. In addition, the soil was fertile, the game very 
abundant, and the climate pleasant. It may be said that, for an Indian district, the population was dense. 

* The evidence seemed conclusive, that these shell-mounds were not extinct oyster-heds, left exposed by some former uplift of the 
Atlantic coast, hut the work of ahoriginal tribes, who repaired to this favored region at certain seasons of the year, and celebrated their 
feasts with the delicious bivalve which must have formerly abounded in these waters. That these feasts were held periodically and, 
perhaps, at considerable intervals, is shown by the condition of the larger deposits, and especially the large one which slopes to the water's 
edge on the west bank of the river.— Moses, rroceetUiigs Central Ohio Scienlijic A-ftodolwii, i, p. 74. See also, Dr. Jeffries Wymau's 
account in Second Jnnual Ecjtort, Ftabody Museum of Anhwology, Cambridge, 1809. 

tThe deposits are entirely free from any admixture of soil or dc'bris of any sort, and one is struck with the appearance which a 
fresh section presents, the clean, white wall of shells looking like a kiln of freshly baked porcelain.— Moses, loc. cil., 74. Wherever we 
found a deep section of shells so lately made that the surface had not decomposed, the o]>eu appearance of the shells was marked. They 
were not mingled with fragments of bone or broken shells or with sand, presenting, in tliis respect, an entirely different appearance from 
the great deposit of oyster-shells by water at the mouth of the St. Mary's river, Georgia, which I had an opportunity of carefully 
observing two years ago. — CiIjVDBOURNE, Trans. Maine Hist. Soc, vi. 

} Another circumstance that strikes the explorer, is the extremely loose condition of the shells, even at the base of a deposit of great 
depth. The shell may be drawn out with the greatest ease from any portion of the bank, and, with a little caution, in an entire state, 
although readily crumbling if not handled with great care.— Moses, toe. cit., 74. The shells lie very loosely, are remarkably white and 
friable, being in a state of partial decomposition and readily falling to pieces when handled. — Moses, loc. at., i, p. "i'i. 

§ One of the deposits, as surveyed by Mr. John M. Brown and myself, has the following dimensions : Shape, oval; length, 180 feet; 
breadth, 100 feet; depth, 6 feet ; height of base above high-water mark, 4 feet. The top of the loftiest mound is 31 feet above high-water 
mark. It descends abruptly toward the river, and at its base the action of the water has ionned a fine shell-beach. — JlOSES, loc. eil., 75. 

II See paragraph 6. 


No douljt, liowover, tlie cliief iittrriL'tioii in tlie district was tbis isolated colony of oysters, and tbat they were 
made incessant use of, is attested by the size of the heaps. As a rule, there is little or no perceptible inter- 
stratification of earth to suggest a period when no shells were thrown down, and the forest had time to grow and 
dro[) its uioldering leaves, the dust an o])portunity to settle. Land-shells are very few, which would not be the 
case had weeds and bushes grown over the beds. The increase of the banks, then, as a whole, was steady from 
the beginning to the end. 

How long ago that beginning was, is a question very difficult to answer. Most persons, I believe, are inclined 
to exaggerate the length of time required to i)ile up even so great a deposit as this. The shells are very large 
and heavy. They will probably average twice the size of the ordinary oysters seen in Fulton market. The greed 
of savages, when food is plenty, is as well known, as that a vast quantity of oysters may be eaten before the 
appetite cloys. It is evident that large numbers of Indians permanently resided in the vicinity, and i)robable that 
still greater numbers came from a distance to the coast in summer. This was in accordance with their habits 
everywhere. Taking these various considerations together, it will be seen that it would not require so extraordinary 
a period, as might at first appear, for the accumulation of the heaps, although so extensive; at the same time it is 
evident that oysters were exceedingly numerous there. But it is also probable that not only were the shells of the 
oysters eaten on the spot, thrown down on the bank, and thus piled up, as you can see the degenerate descendants 
of these Indians doing to this day, but that visiting Indians were in the habit of ])rocuring large quantities of the 
mollusks, shucking them here, and carrying them away to the interior in vessels of wicker, birch-bark, and pottery. 
They came down the Penobscot and other rivers in large canoes in the autumn, filled up their buckets with oysters, 
and departed. In the cold weather of early winter they would keep good for days and weeks, and form a luxury 
in their up-country wigwams, that would remind them most pleasantly of sunny summer-days beside the sea. Thus 
this bay became a shucking-grouud, as well as a place for feasts. Possibly a sj^stem of barter was instituted, by 
which certain men lived on the spot and devoted themselves to getting and selling oysters in exchange for clothing 
and weapons and game. We know there were arrow-makers and canoe-builders, and so on ; why not oyster-divers 
and dealers ? Indeed, it is not improbable that the small neighboring oyster-beds of Sheepscot and Thomaston 
were designedly planted by the Indians with young mollnsks obtained from Damariscotta, with a view to continued 
and convenient supplies. 

The Indians probably procured their oysters by wading out and picking them up at low tide. This was the 
work of the women and children, while the warriors sat on the bank and ate till they were satisfied, or superintended 
the proper freighting of the canoes. But many were also got, no doubt, by diving, which would be done mainly 
by the young men. It is doubtful whether they used anything in the shape of a rake, grapnel, or tongs. I could 
find no evidence of anything of this sort, but if such were used, they were doubtless made of wood (stone would 
be too unwieldy), and therefore would completely perish. 

Another question is, how did they open these monstrous shells ! There are three ways : one is by fire— roast 
a mollusk a few minutes and he opens his valves; evidences of fire, in the shape of ashes and charcoal, are 
recovered at various depths in various parts of the deposit,* and it is probable that this was the usual and cheapest 
method. Another way was by striking a brisk blow on the side of the shell just over the ''scar", or attachment of 
the adductor muscle. This seems to paralyze the animal and his muscles relax. I have seen a heavy stone 
implement that looked as though it had been used for this purpose, and was different from the ordinary hammering 
stones. At Wellfleet, also, I dug from a shell-heap a rough stone tool, evidently fashioned by men, which 
exhibited signs of long usage both as a hammer and as a wedge or knife with which to pry open ihe valves. But 
any of their stone knives or smaller hatchets would have been eminently suitable for this service, and there was 
hardly need of a special instrument for the purpose. There is an implement in the possession of Dr. E. C. Chapman, 
of Damariscotta, however, that appears to have been made expressly for such service, and would accomplish the 
matter as deftly as onr modern knives. 

However, Damariscotta is only one of the many points along the coast of the gulf of Maine where these shell- 
heaps, and extinct deposits nnder the water, show that the oyster once flourished. The most easterly point that I 
can make sure of is Mount Desert island ; for at Eastport no oysters or remains of them have ever been found 
native, a report to the contrary notwithstanding. 

In the George river are extinct beds, concerning which more will be said hereafter; then comes Damaris- 
cotta, already described, and next is Sheepscot river, where there were once plenty of oysters, but no shell-heaps 
of consequence, and the next point is Casco bay. 

* In these places, in deep sections, we found fragments of charcoal mingled with the shells under conditions that showed conclnsivcly 
that it could have been deposited tbero only as the shells were deposited. * » * So common did we find the coal, that I feel confident it 
can ho found there by any careful observer.— Chadbournt;. Trans. Maine Bist. Soc. vi. In digging down from the surface of one of 
these heaps, fragments of charcoal were found at a depth of 3 or 4 feet, and here and there a layer of the same substance. Above and 
below these layers was sometimes a conglomerate mass of shells, apparently burned to lime by the action of fire.— MosES, loc. cit., 74. 
Mr. Morse found at the very foundation of one of the highest heaps the remains of an ancient fire-place, where he exhumed charcoal, 
bones, and pottery. » * » These small mounds are composed of the same materials as the others, but had a larger admixturi; of earth. 
They appearto have been the heaps ol 'refuse giaduallv collected around the encampments. Wv.Man. yrf Jnn. Reimrl realmlii Mud. .inh., 
1H6!I, p. 18. 


Everywliero that any digging lias been doue in Portland Laibor, iu the neighborhood of Harpswell, in tho 
Back cove at the mouth of the Presumpscot, or elsewhere iu the upper and sheltered part of Casco bay, these 
monster shells have been met with. In the harbor they are buried seven feet deep, so rapid has been the filling up by 
sewage and other refuse, but behind the city, out of the way of drifting matter, they are struck only about two feet 
under the surface of the bottom mud. Near Harpswell they are so accessible at low tide, that they have been 
dredged up to some extent and used for manure upon the neighboring farms, wliere they very soon go to powder. 
Upon nearly all the islands in the bay, also, have been found kjokkenmoildings, which have been extensively explored 
and collected from for nuiseums of archajology by jMr. Fuller, Professor Morse, Professor Wyman, and others. 
These hea])s are especially noted for the great quantities of the bones of the extinct auk, Alca inqyennis, that they 
have yielded. 

Xot far southward of Casco bay are the Scarborough headlands, which were perhaps the first of all our shell- 
heaps to attract attention. Southgate, in his history of the town, says : 

The excellent opportvmities for fishing and Uuut iug which dist.ingnished Scarborough, made it one of the favorite resorts of the natives. 
The jjlace of their most ancient residence within the town was the point (Plnmmer's) south of Oak Hill. The site of their village 
overlooks the river, marshes, and bay on the south, and was protected upon the north by a high ridgo of slate. There remains at that place 
a large bank of shells from one to ten feet iu depth, supposed to have been deposited there by these Indians. » * * gome of the ticlds 
on the south side of Blue point consist aluu>st entirely of shells brought there by the Indians, and there are similar traces of them on the 
opijosite shore of Black point. 

Shell-heaps of other lands.— Shell-mounds, like that at Damariscotta, at various points along the shore 
of Massachusetts, and in many other jiarts of the Atlantic coast of America, are found nearly all over the world. 
They all tell the same story of savage life, and usually of an extremely degraded state of society, and an intensely 
hard struggle for daily bread. It is a proof of no great sagacity to discover that mollusks were good for food. 
Many animals, and even birds, found that out long ago. They are present in greater or less profusion upon all 
coasts, and are more likely to be accessible than any other form of food, since they cannot get away, do not require 
to be cultivated, and are equally plenty at all seasons. Nevertheless, it is only within a very few years that these 
heaps of shells near the beach have attracted the attention of antiquarians, as storehouses of materials out of 
which something of the history of now prehistoric times might be reconstructed. Indeed, their character has been 
mistaken altogether, until within the memory of men now living ; for where they had been noticed at all they had 
at once been set down as "old beaches", left high and dry by the sea, and this in spite ol the fact that it was well 
known that just such structures were even now being i)iled up by various tribes of savage men in remote corners of 
the globe. For instance, Captain Cook and Captain Grey both reported, that on the northwest coast of Australia 
the natives, when they had any houses at all, dwelt in the flimsiest of huts along the coast line, and that there were 
around them "vast heaps of shells, the flsh of which we suppose had been their food". Some of these mounds 
were described as covering half an asre and being ten feet thick. Down iu New Zealand precisely the same thing 
was observed. Captain Cook reported a similar state of afi'airs in Patagonia, while the Indians of Alaska and the 
Eskimos of Greenland accumulated shells and bones in vast quantities round their doors, like their neighbors in 
savagery on the eqitator and at the antipodes. Finally, it dawned upon students of archaeology that the prehistoric 
iuhabitants of Europe might have had similar habits, and, if so, masses of castaway shells would remain to mark 
the site of their huts and villages. This led to an examination of the "old beaches", when it was quickly seen that 
they were the product of human agency — were, iu fact, the very remains the archaeologists were searching after. 

The most famous and extensive of these mounds in Europe were those of Deiuuark. They have often been 
described under tbe name of kjokkenmoddings, from two words meaning "heaps of kitchen-refuse". 

Examination has made it evident that these deposits were scattered along the whole coast, following the ins and 
outs of the deeplyiudented shore; but they never occur inland, although the changes in elevation of the coast have 
in some cases placed considerable new laud betwixt them and the beach, just as, in other cases, the encroachment 
of the sea has destroyed them in part, or wholly submerged them. It is in the northern half of Denmark, however, 
that the most exploration has taken place; and it shows conclusively that the people who built them evidently 
made their homes always on the shore, just out of reach of the tide, only now and then, perhaps, following the chase 
into the interior. 

These heaps are much like that of Damariscotta. Some are of large extent and thickness, and hillocky ; others 
of less size, but elongated ; a third sort in the shape of a ring, with a depression in the center, where we may 
suppose the hut was built when last the jjlace was occupied. Sir John Lubbock's description of one of the most 
productive of the heaps, that at Meilgaard, iu 1863, will give a good idea of the whole— 

In the middle this kjokkenraodding has a thickness of about ten feet, from which, however, it slopes away in .all directions; round the 
principal mound aie several smaller ones of the same nature. Over the shells a thiu layer of mold has formed itself, on which the trees 
grow. A good section of such a kjiikkenmodding can hardly fail to strike with astonishment any one who sees it for the first time, and 
it is difficult to convey in words an exact idea of the appearance which it presents. The whole thickness consists of shells, oysters being 
at Meilgaard by far the most numerous, with here and there a few bones, and si ill more r.irely stone implemenls or fragments of pottery. 

The four species of shells most abundant in tho Danish mounds are: the oyster, Osirca ednlis, L.; the cockle, 
Caraium cdtile, L,; tlio mussel, Myiihis eduUx, L.; and tho periwinkle, Umrina liUoreaj L. 


All of tliese ir.olliisks are still used for food; besides tbem, various other sea- and laud shells occur in small 
quantities. Sir John Lubbock points out that the shells of nearly all these mollusks average of far larger size 
than they arc ever known to attain off those coasts at the present day ; while the oyster has entirely disappeared, 
and even in the Kattegat itself occurs only in a few places. " Some oysters were, however, still living at Iselfjord 
at the beginning of this century, and their destnu-tion cannot be altogether ascribed to the fishermen, as great 
numbers of dead shells are still present; but in this case it is attributed to the abundance of starfishes, which are 
very destructive to oysters. On the Mhole, their disappearance, especially when taken in connection with the 
dwarf size of the other species, is evidently attributable in a great measure to the smaller proportion of salt in the 
water." The lack of saltness alluded to arises from the fact, that the elevation of the shores and bottom of the 
Kattegat has been so great as to admit only a little of the tide, while an increased quantity of fresh water flows in. 

Besides these mollusk-shells, the remains of fishes, quadrupeds, and birds are very numerous and highly 
interesting. Professor Steenstrup, who has paid great attention to this matter, estimated that the mound at 
Havelse contained from ten to twelve bones in every cubic foot. 

Of the fishes, the most common are the herring, the dorse (a kind of cod), the dab (a kind of flounder), and the 
eel. Among the bones of birds there have been recognized skeletons of the cajiercailzie (a very large grouse), the 
"wild swan, various ducks and geese, and of the great auk, Alea impennis, whose bones fill our American mounds 
also, and which has now become extinct. 

The mammals are represented in the mounds by the stag, the roe-deer, and the wild boar, for the most part — 
97 per cent, according to Professor Steeustruxi. Besides these, bones of the buffalo, dog, fox, wolf, marten, otter, 
porpoise, seal, water-vole, beaver, lynx, wild-eat, hedgehog, bear, and mouse. Such domestic animals as the ox, elk, 
reindeer, hare, sheep, and hog are absent. The dog was probably kept to be eaten ; or at least it is certain that he 
became an article of food on occasions. 

The bones, little and big, are all badly crushed and broken, and all in the same way, so that the parts missing 
in one skeleton will exactly coincide with those in all the rest, if they could be got together. The long bones of the 
arms and legs, for example, are all split open in the manner best adapted for the extraction of the marrow, 
" which is in itself satisfactory jiroof of the presence of man." 

The flint and stone implements dug up from these shell-heaps are very numerous, but show little skill. "A 
very few carefully formed weapons have been found," says Sir John Lubbock, "but the implements generally are 
very rude. Small pieces of very coarse pottery have also been discovered, and many of the bones from the 
kjiikkcnmoddings bear evident marks of a sharp instrument: several of the jjieces found by us were in this condition, 
and had been fashioned into rude pins." Sir John continues : 

"The kjokkenmoddings were not mere summer-quarters; the ancient fishermen resided on these spots for at 
least two-thirds, if not the whole, year. This we learn from an examination of the bones of the wild animals, as it 
is often possible to determine within very narrow limits the time of year at which they were killed. For instance, 
the remains of the v. ild swan, Cygnus musicus, are very common, and this bird is only a winter visitor, leaving 
Danish coasts in March and returning in November. It might naturally have been hoped that the remains of 
young birds would have supplied evidence as to the spring and early summer, but, unfortunately, as has already 
been explained, no such bones are to be found. It is therefore fortunate that among the mammalia two periodical 
lihenomena occur, namely, the shedding and reproduction of stags' antlers, which, with slight variations according 
to age, have a fixed season; and, secondly, the birth and growth of the young. These and similar phenomena 
render it highly probable that the 'mound-builders' resided on the Danish coast all the year round, though I am 
disposed to think that, like the Fuegians, who lead even now a very similar life, they frequently moved from spot to 
spot. This appears to me to be indicated not only by the condition of the deserted hearths, but by the color of the 
flint flakes, etc.; for, while many of these retain the usual dull, bluish-black color which is characteristic of newly- 
broken flints, and which remains unaltered as long as they are surrounded by carbonate of lime, others are 
whitened, as is usual with those which have been exposed for any length of time. Perhaps, therefore, these were 
lying on the surface during some period of desertion, and covered over only when the place was again inhabited. 

"Much as still remains to be made out respecting the men of the Stone period, the facts already ascertained, like 
a few strokes by a clever draughtsman, supply us with the elements of an outline sketch. Carrying our imagination 
back into the past, we see before us on the low shores of the Danish archipelago a race of small men, with heavy, 
overhanging brows, round heads, and faces probably much like those of the present Laplanders. As they must 
evidently have had some ]irotection from the weather,' it is most probable that they lived in tents made of skins. 
The total absence of metal in the kjokkenmoddings indicates that they had not yet any weapons except those 
made of wood, stone, horn, and bone. Their principal food must have consisted of shellfish, but they were able to 
catch fish, and often varied their diet l)y game caught in hunting. It is perhaps not uncharitable to conclude that 
when their hunters were successful, the whole community gorged itself with food, as is the case with many savage 
races at the present time. It is evident that marrow was considered a great delicacy, for every single bone which 
contained any was split open in tiie manner best adapted to extract the precious morsel." 

We have already seen that these mound-buililers were regular settlers and not mere summer-visitors, ami, on 


the whole, seem to laavc lived in very much the same manner as the inhabitants of the Tierra del Fuego, who 
dwell on the coast, feed piincii)all,y on shellfish, and have the dog as their only domestic animal. A very good 
account of them is given in Darwin's Journal, from which I extract the following passages, v.hich give us a vivid 
and i)robably correct idea of what might have been seen on the Danish shore long, long ago : 

The inhabitants, living chiefly upon shellfish, are obliged constantly to change their place of residence ; but they return at intervals 
to the same spots, as is evident from the pile of old shells, which must often auioiint to some tons in weight. These heajis can bo 
distinguished at a long distance by the bright-green color of certain plants which invariably grow on them. * » * The Fuegian wigwam 
resembles in size and dimensions a h.ay-cock. It merely consists of a few broken branches stuck in the ground, very imperfectly thatched 
on one side with a few tufts of grass and rushes. The whole cannot be so much as the work of one hour, and it is ouly used for a few 
days. * » • At a subsequent period the Beagle anchored for a couple of days under Wollastou island, which is a short way to the north- 
ward. While going on shore we pulled alongside a canoe with six Fuegians. These were the most abject aud miserable creatures 
I anywhere beheld. On the east coast the natives, as wo have seen, have guanaco cloaks, and on tho west they possess seal-skins. 
Amongst the central tribes the men generally possess an otter-skin, or some small scrap about as large as a pocket-handkerchief, which 
is liarely suflicieut to cover their backs as low down as their loins. It is laced across the breast by strings, and, according as the wind 
blows, it is shifted from side to side. But these Fuegians in the eanoe were quite naked, aud even one full-grown woman was absolutely 
so. It was raining heavily, and tho fresh water, togelher with the spray, trickled down her body. • » * Theseijoor wretches were .stunted 
in their growth, their hideous faces bedaubed with white paint, their skins filthy and greasy, their hair entangled, their voices discordant, 
their gestures violent aud without dignity. Viewing such men, one can h.irdly make one's self believe they are fellow-creatures and 
iuh.abit.ants of the same world. * * * At night five or six human beings, naked and scarcely protected from the wind aud rain of this 
tempestuous climate, sleep on the wet ground, coiled up like animals. AVhenever it is low water they must rise to pick shelllish from the 
rocks, aud the women, winter and summer, either dive to collect sea-eggs or sit patiently in their canoes, and, with a baited hair-line, 
jerk out small fish. If a seal is killed, or the floating carcass of a putrid whale discovered, it is a feast. Such miserable food is assisted 
by a few tasteless berries and fungi. Nor .are they exempt from famine, and, as a consequence, cauuibalism is accompanied by parricide. 
In this latter respect, however, the advantage appears to be all on the side of the ancients, whom we have no right to accuse of cauuibalism. 

If the absence of cereal remains justifies us, as it appears to do. In concluding that they had no knowledge of agriculture, they must 
certainly have sometimes suti'ered from periods of great scarcity, indications of which may perhaps be seen in the bones of the fox, wolf, 
and other carni vora, which would hardly have beeii eaten from choice ; ou the other hand, they were blessed in the ignorance of spmtuous 
liquors, and saved thereby fi'om what is at present tho greatest scourge of northern Europe (p. 234). 


Date and extent op the extinction. — I attempted to show, in the last section, to how wide an e-xtent 
the oyster grew north of Cape Cod, and how recent was its disappearance in many localities. It is worth while 
to inquire what has caused this sudden and widespread extinction. At Mount Desert, at Bath, Maine, in Ctisco 
bay, at Scarborough, New Hampshire, and Salisbury, Massachusetts, in the Parker and Eowley rivers, in the 
Charles, Mystic, and Weymouth rivers, Massachusetts, and everywhere on Cape Cod, the native oystei"S are wholly 
extinct. A few remain in Great Bay, near Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and at Sheepscot, Maine. Possibly, also, 
a few could be searched out at Damariscotta and Wellfleet, but this is very doubtful. What has killed them all ? 
Beginning with beds whose extinction was prehistoric, there are three theories, either of which is at the 
service of tlie reader, or he m sy, if he chooses, combine them. One is, that the Indians used them up ; another, that 
the polluting of the water, by the refuse of mills and manufactures, had its influence; the third, that the elevation 
of the coast, which geologists tell us has been proceeding steadily for many centuries, brought about conditions fatal 
to this fixed moUusk, so far as the precise locality of particular beds was concerned. In George river, to begin at 
the extreme east, we are told that the death of the oysters is very recent. They continued plenty up to 1S3G, 
according to the account of old residents of the district, who are under the impression that their subsequent 
extinction was due to the sawdust coming down from lumber-mills, and brought in by the eddying tide.* 

In regard to the decline of the great deposits above Damariscotta there is much to excite curiosity. After all, 
there was only a limited area of this oyster-growth— at most a square mile of water suitable for their habitation, 
and it is certain that they were sought for year after year by a large number of persons. It would not be strange, 
therefore, if, unable to propagate fast enough to supply the demand, they finally became extinct. I believe that this 
calamity would not have been long delayed had the red men been left alone for a few decades longer. Indeed, it has 
been gravely doubted whether any oysters were in existence in Salt bay when the locality was first discovered by 
white men. The traditions are uncertain, but I think they give satisfactory evidence that the settlers found 
at least a small number of oysters here, and that their disappearance is comparatively recent, probably within the 
present century. I am satisfied that the first white men found still alive here the remnants of the great oyster 
colony which the Indians had been foraging upon for many generations, perhaps, atid had at last nearly exterminated. 

Possible effects of natural skdoient upon the Damariscotta beds. — The influence of the Indians 
having been considered, various other causes are assigned for the utter extinction of the oyster in this region. Dr. 

• It is convenient to mention the following facts : lu 18,'j3 oysters were planted in Oyster river, near the George, but without success. 
In I81i4 it is s;ii<l that a few living large ones were taken there, and it is probable that a few still exist. Tlie saw-mills have all ceased to 
run oil these rivers, and I sec no good reason why tho beds should not be restocked with success. The original loi'ality was near the 
railway bridge. There are no sliell-lu^aps here. — Liilcr from the Hon. E. E. O'lliivn. 


E. C. Cliapmaii, of Newcastle, Maine, who lias paid mncli intelligent attention to the matter, has constructed a 
theory in this wise: He points to the fact that the fresh- water pond above the island and rocky l^xlls at Damariscotta 
mills is about (iO feet higher than the level of Salt bay. The tide never goes beyond these rapids. He believes 
that at one time the pond coutained a far greater volume of water than now, and that it had either no outlet at 
all into Salt bay, or else a very small oue ; but that finally the weight of the water broke through the barrier of 
rock and gravel at the falls, and made for itself this new channel oceanward. This breakage would of course 
burden the new outrushing current with an enormous amount of loosened soil and broken rock, which would be 
swept onward until it settled in thick sediment all over the bottom of Salt bay, and ibr a long time after the water 
would be murky with clouds of mud. Such a catastrophe would undoubtedly kill the most, if not all, of the 
molluscan life in such an inclosed body of sea-water as Salt bay is ; and the oysters would survive it least of all. 
But I am not convinced that there is e^idence that any such a sudden, grand disaster ever occurred at that spot, 
or, if it ever did, I am of the o]uniou that it was antecedent to the beginning of the shell-heaps. We are all more 
fond of conjuring up some grand cataclysm to account for mysteries in nature, than to accept an explanation 
commended by its simplicity. 

Pollution of the wateb by mills and factoeies.— One of the first acts of the new settlers was the 
erection of saw-mills at the falls, where they found a splendid water-power. These mills began at once to pour 
great quantities of saw-dust into the stream, which was carried out into Salt bay and the river below, where it was 
bandied back and forth in the tireless tides until it sank. Sawdust very soon becomes water-logged and goes down. 
At the same time woodmen were clearing the forests and draining the swamps, and farmers were breaking the turf. 
Each of these operations tends to increase the running off of the rain and the carrying away of a far greater amount 
of silt than under natural conditions. The oysters thus found their clear, salt home freshened by an unusual influx 
of rain-water, the currents always roily, and themselves gradually being smotheretf in the sediment of sawdust and 
earth deposited everywhere, except, perhaps, in the deepest and swiftest parts of the channel. Thus an end was 
made of what, with care, might no doubt have been nurtured into a most flourishing oyster-colony. 

At the northeastern extremity of Salt bay a little stream, known as Oyster creek, comes in from toward the 
village of Nobleboro. The mouth of this creek is out of the way of the currents from the mills, and, in general, it 
is the part of the bay least likely to suffer harm from sediment. The men who fish for eels through the ice in winter 
say that underneath the foot or so of thick sawdust and mud that now covers the bottom, and has perceptibly 
lessened the general depth of the water within a hundred years, there is everywhere a layer of oyster-shells. 
Here in the creek, however, these are not covered up, but may be seen lying, large and white, on the bottom, as the 
bridge is crossed. IMoreover, men now living assert, that sixty or seventy years ago a few of the bivalves were still 
to be had there, and that during the previous half century there were a great many in the bay. They believe that 
later than that scattering individuals might have been found, and some men go so far as to say that in the " quick- 
water " at the base of the falls a few oysters may even now be obtained. There are some supporting facts, and I 
do not think it unlikely. 

The covering of the formerly gravelly or shelly bottom of the bay would not only smother existing mollusks, 
but, in the case of our subject, would prove fatal in another way. The spawn of the oyster requires some clean, 
firm support to which to attach itself. The soft, wet matting of sediment would not do at all, and all the ova would 
drift out to sea or become the food for fishes, and in either case produce nothing. 

No longer than forty years ago, however, I am told, a dead spruce tree was dragged to the surface opposite the 
shell-heaps, whence it had fiillen, top foremost, into the stream. The branches were clogged full of sawdust ; but 
clinging to the twigs were innumerable young oysters that had not had a chance to grow to any great size before 
they were choked by the drifting sediment. Whence came the spawn for this growth, if there were then no living 
oysters in Salt bay or vicinity"? It is possible some might be got, by careful search, in the Oyster creek corner yet. 
As lor the long, thick shells dredged up in the lower Penobscot river and in Portland harbor, indicating so 
extensive a habitancy there of these mollusks in ancient times, possibly the death of many of them dates back to 
Postpliocene days. Opposed to this thought, nevertheless, is the fact that shell-heaps upon the islands in Casco 
bay show that a few oysters, at any rate, still existed when Indians dwelt there. No one has ventured on an 
exi)lanation of their extinction, that I am aware of, except Mr. C. B. Fuller, curator of the Portland Society of 
Natural History, who suggests that, by the breaking away of the barrier represented by the present chain of 
islands in the bay, the water of the outer sea was let fully into what had previously been a sheltered basin. This 
water was so very much salter, as well as colder, than that to which the oysters had been accustomed, that they 
were unable to survive the change. 

Climatic changes. — Professor A. E. Verrill, however, evidently considers a change in climate the cause of the 
loss to the world's economy of these storehouses of food. In his Invertebrates of Vineyard Sound, this writer remarks 
that the occurence of large quantities of oyster-shells beneath the harbor-mud at Portland, associated with T'e«M« 
mercenaria, Pecten irradians, Turhonilla interriipta, and other southern species, now extinct in that locality, and the 
occurence of the first two species in the ancient Indian shell-heaps on some of the islands in Casco bay, though not 
now found living among the islands, indicates that the temperature of those waters was higher at a former period 


than at present. These facts also point to the most satisfactory explanation of the existence of numerous southern 
shells, associated with the oyster and Venus mercenaria in the southern part of the gulf of St. Lawrence, though 
not now found in the intermediate waters along the coast of Maine nor in the bay of Fundy. 

These remarks, it will be observed, apply to the whole coast, and are highly suggestive. In their light it is 
useless to speculate upon the few remaining localities until Wellfleet, on the cape, is reached. 

Extinction of tde Wellfleet beds. — In Wellfleet harbor, as has already been shown, oysters were native 
and widespread at the time of the discovery of the country by Europeans. The settlers began at once to make 
use of them, and continued to do so as long as they lasted. Here we ought to know something definitely about 
their extinction, but all the information is scattered and inexact. 

Wellfleet was anciently known as Billingsgate, at least that part of it on the western side, on account of the 
abundance of the fish there, and this name became an oyster-brand during the last century. In the Maasacliuseits 
Historical Collections, iii, is preserved a topographical description of Wellfleet, by Levi Whitman, dated 1793, in 
which is given considerable information upon our subject. Mr. Whitman asserts his opinion that "no part of the 
world has better oysters than the harbor of Wellfleet. Time was when they were to be found in the greatest plenty, 
but in 1775 a mortality from an unknown cause carried off the most of them. Since that time Billingsgate oysters 
have been scarce, and the greater part that are carried to market are first imijorted and laid in our harbor, where 
they obtain the proper relish of Billingsgate". 

Forty years later Gould wrote, in his Invertebrates of Massachusetts: 

They say that Wellfleet, where the southern oysters are planted for Boston use, was originally called Billingsgate, on account of the 
abuntlance of fish, and especially oysters, found there; that they co.itinued to be abundant until about the year 1780, when from some 
cause they all died; and, to this day, immense beds are shown there of shells of native oysters which perished at that time. They say 
that before that time no such thing was thought of as bringing oysters from the south. 

The Wellfleet oysterman, whom Thoreau talked so long with on his visit to the cape in 1849, and the charming 
report of whose conversation is given us in that jjleasant author's Cape Cod, placed the date of the disappearance 
of the oyster there as 1770. " Various causes are assigned for this, such as the ground frost, the carcasses of 
blackfish left to rot in the harbor, and the like, but the most common account of the matter is, and I find that a 
similar superstition with regard to the disappearance of fishes exists almost every where, that when Wellfleet began 
to quarrel with the neighboring towns about the right to gather them, yellow specks appeared in them, and 
Providence caused them to disappear." 

Nowadays, the citizens of the village repeat these traditions — all but the one about Providence — I did not hear 
that — and hazard no new theory. It is perhaps most truthful of all to say, that excessive raking nearly depopulated 
the beds, and that the blowing in of sand from the stripped hills, and the polluting of the tide-water by the oflal 
of the fishing-vessels that throng the bay, destroyed the growth of the young. No doubt rotting carcasses of 
schools of blackfish left on the beach (as has happened many a time) and the subtle anchor-frost helped — "that is, 
a degree of cold so great as to cover the bottom with a coating of ice, and thereby to cut ofi' the oysters from all 
access to air and nourishment." It is very probable, nevertheless, that many native oysters are stiU living in 
Wellfleet bay, perpetuating the old stock. 

Wyman on the extinction of food-mollttsks in Florida and elsewhere. — I find some exceedingly 
pertinent remarks on this subject in Dr. Jeffries Wyman's reiiort on the shell-heaps of Florida. They are as follows: 

It seems incredible to one who searches the waters of the St. John's and its lakes at the present time, that the two small species of 
shells above mentioned could have been obtained in such vast quantities as are broujtht together in these mounds, unless at the times of 
their fonnation the shells existed more abundantly than now, or the collection of them extended through very long ijeriods of time. When 
it is borne in mind that the shell-heaps afl'ord the only suitable surface for dwellings, being most commonly built in swamps, or on lands 
liable to be annually overflowed by the rise of the river, they appear to be necessarily the result of the labors of a few living on a 
limited area at any one time. At the present, it would be a very difficult matter to bring together in a single day enough of these shells 
for the daily meals of an ordinary family. That they formerly existed in larger numbers than now, is by no means improbable. It is well 
known, with regard to both animals and plants, that after flourishing for considerable periods in given areas, they at length yield in tlieir 
struggles for existence against ch.auged conditions. The oysters of which the gigantic shell-heaps on the Damariscotta river in Maine 
are built were, without doubt, obtained from the adjoining waters, but to-day they are well-nigh extinct, and the same is in a measure 
true of some of the deposits on Cape Cod, as at Cotuit Port. Analogous changes have been observed by European archa-ologists. The 
oyster-banks near the mouth of the Baltic, from which many of the ancient shell-heaps of Denmark were formed, have disappeared, partly 
through increasing freshness of the water, and partly through the ravages of the starfish. The last of them have disappeared from the 
Iselfjord during a century, so that none are found further south than the northern end of the island of Seeland, and in large quantities 
only on the more northern shores of the Kattegat. The water chestnut. Trapes natana, once very abundant in some of the Swiss lakes 
during the age of the lake-dwellers, has now become extinct in those regions. — Smithsonian Report, 1865, p. 36.5. 

As the oysters of the ancient period were very much larger than those now found on the coast of Maine, it is 
also the case that the shells from the mounds of the St. John's surpass in size, though to a less marked degree, 
those of the actual period. 




Testihiony of Champlain, Pottrincourt, and Winslow, 1G05-1020. — Beyond tlie most general allnsion, 
the veiy earliest mention of oysters in these waters occurs in ^GOC. The second voyage of exploration along our 
coast found an anchorage in Massachusetts bay. " There were many very good oysters here," he relates, " which 
we had not seen before, and we named the place Port aus Huistres." Mr. Slafter, a commentator upon the history 
of these voyages, says " it is plain that this port, which they named Oyster Harbor, was either that of Wellfleet or 
Barnstable. The former, it will be remembered, Chamjilain, with De Monts, entered the preceding year, 160.3, and 
luiinod it, or the river that flows into it, St. Suzanna du Cap Blauc. * * * It is obvious that Champlain could not 
have entered this harbor the second time without recognizing it. « * * "We may conclude, therefore, that the 
port in question was not Welltieet, but Barnstable. This conclusion is sustained by the conditions mentioned in 
the text." 

In another edition of Champlain's map (1C32) the "Riviere anx Escailles" is drawn emptying into the same part 
of the bay which Ogilby, in his map of this part of America, published in 1670, calls " Port aux Huistres". This name 
survived, indeed, to a much later time. In Itees's Cyclopedia (1819), "Oyster bay" is given as "a harbour for small 
vessels in the southwest limits of Barnstable, Massachusetts. It derives its name from its excellent oysters ". 

Champlain (second voyage, 1606,) also relates that he found oyster-beds in Chatham harbor, on the south side 
of Cape Cod, and makes the following general statement: "All the harbors, bays, and coasts from Choiiacoet 
[Portland, Maine] are filled with every variety of fish. # * * There are also many shellfish of various sort^-, 
principally oysters." In this case, too, Rees preserves the recollection so long, that I wonder it has ever been lost, 
for in his Cyclopaedia he mentions an " Oyster Island Harbour on the coast of Massachusetts, which, from its 
latitude (lat. 41° 35', long. 70° 21'), must have been in the neighborhood of Chatham ". 

These records by Champlain and Poitriucourt embrace the earliest notice that I can find of oysters on the 
northern coast, but careful searching through all the early narratives of exploration and settlement around 
Massachusetts bay, produces much additional testimony. For instance, in 1621, in a letter from Plymouth, 
preserved in 3Iovffs Relation, Edward Winslow writes to an English friend: "Oyfters we have none near, but we 
can have them brought by the Indians when we will." This shows they were not far away. Two years later we 
read the sad report that "one in geathering fhellflfh was fo weake as he fuicke faft in y« mudd, and was found 
dead in j" place. At last moft of them [Wefton's people in Maffachufetts bay] left their dwellings & fcattered 
up & downe in y" woods, & by y® water fide, wher they could find ground nuts & clames, hear 6 and ther ten ".* 

HiGGiNSON, Wood, and Josseltn, 1630-1638. — In 1630 Higginson, in his N'eic England's Plantation, gives 
"muskles and oysters" as a part of the great wealth of the waters beside which the Pilgrims had placed their 
colony; and seven years afterward Thomas Morton added his witness: "There are great store of Oysters in the 
entrances of all Rivers ; they are not round as those of England, but excellent fat, and all good. I have scene an 
Oyster bauke a mile at length."! 

In 1631 William Wood, in his New EnglancVs Prospect, speaks of "a great oyster bank" in Charles river, and 
another in the "Misticke", each of which obstructed the navigation of its river. Ships of small burden, he says, 
were able to go up as far as Watertown and Newton, "but the Oyster-bankes doe biure out the bigger Ships." In 
reference to the Mystic, and the large amount of shipbuilding upon it. Wood says, "Ships without either Ballast 
or loading, may floate downe this River; otherwise the Oyster-banke would hinder them which crosseth the 

" The Oysters," adds Wood, "be great ones in form of a Shoehorne ; some be a foot long ; these breed on certain 
banks that are bare every spring tide. This fish without shell is so big, that it must admit of a division before you 
can well get it into your mouth." 

This bank appears to have been a very well-known and prominent feature in those days, though no popular 
tradition of it remains. For example, Winthrop's History of ¥ew England, edited by the Rev. John Savage, p. 
106, contains under date of August 6, 1633, the following statement: "Two men servants to one Moodye, of 
Roxbury, returning in a boat from the windmill, struck upon the oyster-bank. They went out to gather oysters, 
and, not making fast their boat, when the flood came, it floated away, and they were both drowned, although they 
might have waded out on either side; but it was an evident judgment of God upon them, for they were wicked 

In Hubbard's General History of New England, written in 1633, is another account of the same incident, or 
accident, as one of several instances where the visible wrath of Jehovah, apparently so manifest to the Puritan, 
had instantly followed transgression. I quote the passage : 

The like judgment befell two lewd persons that lived in service with one of Roxlmry, who, rowing in a boat from the windmill hill 
in Boston, struck upon an oyster-bank near the ihannel, and going out of their boat before they had fastened her, to get oysters, the tide 
came in before they were aware, and iloated away the boat; and, they not being actiuainted with the channel, were both drowned on the 
bank, though they might at first safely have waded through to the shore. 

* Bradford's History of Plymouth Plantation, in Coll. Mass, Hist, Soc,, vol. iii, 4th sec, p. 130, tNew English Canaan, p. 90. 


There are other references to this matter. John Josselyn, Gent., in his Account of Two Voyages to New England, 
printed in 1G38, describes Boston and it.s environs. Charles river is portrayed with uiimiteness, and the expansion 
above the "Narrows", now known as the Back bay, is indicated. "Toward the sonthwest," he writes, "in the 
ini(klle of the bay, is a great oyster-bank, toward the northwest is a creek; upon the shore is situated the village of 
Medford ; it is a mile and a half from Charlestown." 

This is mixed, and throws small light upon the precise position of either of these banks, which must have been 
of considerable importance to Bostonians at that time, and particularly to the poor. This appears from the 
foregoing, and from a paragraph in a very interesting tract preserved in the Geneva library, written by an 
unknown French refugee who visited Massachusetts in 1GS7; describing the prosperity of Boston, the author says: 
"This town carries on a great trade with the islands of A.merica and with Spain. They carry to the islands flour, 
salt-beef, salt-pork, cod, staves, salt-salmon, salt-mackerel, onions, and oysters salted in barrels, great quantities of 
which are taken here." 

Location op the Ohables river beds. — It is a less easy task than it would at first appear to determine 
the location of these ancient beds of oysters. For that in the Mystic river I have no data sufficient to guide me 
with any exactness ; any one may guess within a mile of it. There is better iiiformation in regard to the Charles 
river beds. 

The "lewd persons" who lost their careless lives were returning from the windmill. This, it is known, stood 
upon one of the hills in the common— possibly that which now upholds the soldiers' monument. The tides at that 
time washed the shore of the higher parts of the common, along where Charles street now jiasses, and boats could 
doubtless come almost up to the foot of the mill with their loads of grist. Eeturning out through the bay, they 
would pass close by any oyster-banks that lay off Cambridge port. 

Through the discussion of a paper which I had the honor to read before the Boston Society of Natural 
History, in September, 1879, upon Massachusetts oysters, some new facts of interest were brought to light bearing 
upon the point now under consideration. Prof. F. W. Putnam remarked that when, twenty years ago, the ground 
was being broken at the corner of Berkeley and Boylston streets, for the foundations of the building devoted to 
this very society, in which we were then sitting, many immense oyster-shells in good condition were struck at a 
depth of several feet. This part of Boston is all " made ground ", extending over former tide-flats in the " Back 
bay " of Charles river. It is possible that these aged buried oysters grew on the anciently noted bed, the site of 
which therefore is now appropriately indicated by the Natural History Booms and the noble Institute of 

Plymouth and NE^VBURY, lGGO-1700.— Meanwhile Plymouth had pulled her people out of where they had 
" stncke fast in y« mudd", and discovered that her mollusk-flsheries were valuable, as the following quotation from 
the records evince : 

"Att the generall court hold att Plymouth the fourth of June, 1601— 

It is enacted by the Court that five shillings shalbee payed to the Countrey vpon every baiTcU of Oysters that is earryed out of 
the Gouv'ment, and that the Countrey bee not defrauded, hee shall enter them with theTowne Clarke before hee carry them away, or else 
to forfeit twenty shillings •^ barrell on any carrycd away not entered." ' 

" Att the 2cond Sessiou of the Generall Court held att Plymouth, for the jurisdiction of New Plymouth, the seaventh of July, 1C80— 

This Court doth order that all such as are uot of our coUonie be heerby prohibited of fetching oysters from Taunton River with 
boates or any other vessells; and incase any such shall ^sist on in soe doeiug after warning given to the contrary, this Court doth order 
John Hathway, of Taunton, and doe heerby impower him to make seizure of such boates and vessells for the collonie's vse."t 

Moving a little farther eastward, I find that the oysters in Parker and Eowley rivers were valuable tcr the 
settlers in that region. In his History of Newbury, Mr. Joshua Coflin remarks: 

Certain it is that vast quantities of lime of the best quality were annually made in Newbury for nearly a century, for export as well 
as for homo use. Prior to this time limo was manufactured from oyster- and clam-shells. Lewis, in his Minute and Accurate History of 
Lyimc, informs us, under the year Uii)G, that immense numbers of great clams were thrown upon the beaches by storms. The people were 
permitted by a vote of the town to dig and gather as many as they wished for their own use, but no more, and no person was allowed to 
carry any out of town, on a peualty of twenty shillings. The shells were gathered in cart-loads ou the beach and manufactured into 

New Hajipshire and Maine.— Still farther on, Durham river, Brainford county, New Hampshire, was known, 
as early as 1G97, as "Oyster river", just as its neighbor was called "Lamprey river", because of the mollusks in the 
one and the "eals" in the other. The " Great Bay" into which the Durham river flowed was full of oysters, and 
tradition has it that no more than a century ago vessels used to come there and be loaded with these oysters, while 
previously the neighborhood had always been able to obtain all they wished with little trouble. 

In Scarboiough and Casco bays, and along Mount Desert, I am inclined to believe that oysters were extinct 
before the occupation of that region by white men. But I think, that if it is true that George river is the stream 
ascended by Weymouth during the first decade of the seventeenth century, he undoubtedly subsisted his crew, 
while there, upon the oysters, though he does no more than mention "nuiscles", without distinction of kind. 

This George river is the most eastern point at which I have been able to di.scover any trace of oysters in the 

"Plymouth Colony Records, vol. xi, 1623-1682, Laws, p. 132. ilbid., vol. vi, 1678-1691, p. 44, 


United States. It is an insignificaut stream, tbat flows down to the sea at Thomaston. The mouth of the stream, 
as is the case always along that deeply indented coast, is in the form of a deep estuary, and forms a good harbor. 
At a point about fifteen miles inland, measured along the river, the Knox and Lincoln railway crosses. Just above 
the bridge a trifling- stream known as Oyster river comes in, and the confluence of the two streams is in a broad, 
shallow expansion, about marking the head of the tide. It was just at this point that the first-comers to this region 
found an abundance of oysters within a restricted space. Oyster river, a little stream that "makes in" between 
Thomaston and Warren, was the principal point. According to the Hon. E. K. O'Brien, of Thomaston, tradition 
asserts that sloops used to go there to load oysters for the neighboring colonies. They were abundant, also, on the 
main George river, by Edward O'Brien's shipyard, in Warren. These old oysters are reputed to have been of 
huge size, a report borne out by the remains of shells which now exist. Similarly, I believe, the first settlers found 
at least a few oysters at Damariscotta, though history is silent and tradition is uncertain. It is positively known, 
however, that the ancient Sheepscot settlement found in its oyster-beds a source of constant profit, both by 
consumption and sale, and they are not altogether exhausted from that river yet, in spite of sawdust and chips. 

Lost oyster localities along the gulf of Maine.— It is probable that there were many other localities, 
now forgotten, where the oyster existed along the gulf of Maine at the beginning of the seventeenth century, 
besides those I have indicated, namely, Wellfleet, Barnstable, Weymouth, Boston, Ipswich, Newbury, Portsmouth, 
Sheepscot, Damariscotta, and George rivers. Nor must it be forgotten that this catalogue does not embrace the 
prolific field bordering Buzzard's bay, whence the colonies were constantly supplied overland. Add to this plenitude 
of oysters the inexhaustible abundance of several species of "clams", so-called, scallops, lobsters, and so forth, and 
it is no wonder that the shellfish are constantly alluded to in the narratives of the early struggles of the Pilgrims 
against starvation, as a blessed source of food; for it may well be supposed that without them they would hardly 
have survived the rigors of those dreadful first winters. Even their quality found a champion, who thought them 
first rate. Josselyu informed his readers that the Indians fed much on lobsters, and adds : 

Some tliey rost, and some they flry as they do Lampres and Oysters, which are delicate breakfast meat so ordered; the Oysters are 
long shell'd. I have had of them nine inches long from the joynt to the toe, containing an Oyster like those the Latines called Tridacuan, 
that were to be cut into three pieces before they could get them into their mouths, very fat & sweet. 

In the face of this testimony, briefly indicated, it is curious that it should ever have been denied that the 
oyster was indigenous in Massachusetts bay, as has been done more than once, and still more strange that so well 
informed a naturalist as A. A. Gould should not have felt strong enough to affirm it. In Binney's edition of his 
Invertebrates of Massachusetts it is stated: 

It is also a question on which there are various opinions, whether the oyster was indigenous in Massachusetts bay, or whether aU 
■which grow in the various oyster-beds owe their parentage to inhabitants of the Dalaware, Chesapeake, and Oyster bay, etc. That 
they now [I8G1!] grow spontaneously, and, for aught we can le.arn, always have grown so, on the south shore, there is no reason to doubt ; 
and that they are occasioually found of patriarchal appearance in all parts of our bay is certainly true. But the question is, whether 
these places are their natural habitat, or whether they have been accidentally dropped where they were found. Many incline to this 
latter opinion, especially the younger oystermeu and some scientific gentlemen; but the old settlers of Cape Cod are of a different 

Mr. Gould would not have allowed this non-committal, and consequent doubt as to his own belief, had he 
consulted history. Indeed, we may fairly give him the credit of believing better than he wrote, for in his first 
edition (1811) he records that "old men relate that they were accustomed to go up Mystic river and Charles river, 
and gather oysters of great size, before it was the custom to bring them from New York. And even now individuals 
of enormous size are occasionally brought from both these places, and probably might be found, by special search, 
at any time ". 


Early attempts at oyster-culture. — I have ventured elsewhere to suggest that the oyster-beds in the 
Sheepscot and George rivers may have been planted there by the Indians, who carried over from Damariscotta, 
by paths yet traceable, a quantity of full-grown oysters, and placed them in those streams, in order to keep them 
alive conveniently near home. If this supposition is correct, it is probably the earliest instance of oyster-culture 
in North America. Nevertheless, oyster-culture proper— that is, the propagation of oysters in permanent beds, 
which annually increase by their native spawn — remains almost unknown in the gulf of Maine, and uniformly 
unsuccessful, except at one point. This is not wholly inattention to the matter, but the lack of suitable conditions 
for successful growth. 

In a letter from General Benjamin Lincoln, of Hingham, Massachusetts, to the Eev. Mr. Belknap, author of the 
History of New Hampshire, dated December li', 1791, it is remarked: 

We have undoubtedly been criminally inattentive to the propagation of the oyster in different parts of our shores; we can probably 
fill our channels with these shellfish with much more ease than we can fill our pastures with herds and flocks. 

Had General Lincoln studied the case more deeply, he might have had to change his opinion of the "great 
ease". More than half a century before— indeed, in the year 1711— "a plan for forming an oyster-bed in Plymouth 


harbor was projected by a company of tbirty-one persons, whose names are on record. Oysters were procured and 
deposited in a certain place, deemed the most eligible, with the hope that they might thus be propagated ; but it 
was ascertained by the experiment that the flats are left dry too long for their habit, which requires that they be 
covered at all times by water".* 

Obstacles to successful oyster-culture in the gulf of Maine. — This coast is a precipitous and rocky 
one, affording few suitable points for oyster-culture; most of these were occupied by the native beds, which have 
succumbed. Other localities have been rendered unfit for oyster-life, by the pollution of the water, through various 
agencies of civilization. The climate, also, appears to be too severe for any but native breeds. Virginia oysters 
have frequently been left through the winter iu deep water, but have very rarely lived; and, if they did so, would 
spawn at so late a day that the autumn chill proves fatal to the young. I have heard of a bag-full of oysters, 
supposed to be from Virginia, surviving for several years in Sheepscot river, but the case is hardly authentic. All 
attempts at the cultivatiou aud propagation of Virginia or New York oysters have, therefore, been abandoned as 
entii'ely futile on the Maine coast or in Massachusetts bay, except at Wellfleet. The severity of the winters, the 
violence of the tempests, the scarcity of good bottom, and the abundance of starfishes and other enemies, make 
planting unprofitable, if not impossible. 

ExPERiJiENTS AT Salem AND Wellfleet. — As an instance of the data upon which I found my conclusion, 
I give the following information, furnished by the Messrs. Newcomb, oyster-merchants in Salem, Massachusetts. 

In regard to the advisability of plauting oysters in the vicinity of that town, Mr. Newcomb had little 
encouragement to offer. Some that had been brought from Fire island by his fatber, many years ago, and were put 
down in the harbor channel, were found some years later to have li\'ed and to have grown very large and good. 
The present firm put 1,000 bushels iu water five feet deep, at low-tide, in Bass river, one season, but every one of 
them died during the winter. There is no very good ground for planting anywhere in that harbor. 

At Wellfleet, Cape Cod, however, something is being done, with good prospects. In years past it frequently 
happened that the oysters bedded at Wellfleet would spawn and young ones attach themselves to stones, and to 
the wharfs and bridge piers, in myriads. Most of these would be left exposed at low-tide, and consequently were 
killed by the first frosty day. A large number, however, survived every winter, scattered here and there in 
submarine and i^rotected situations. This induced the experiment of trying to preserve some throughout the year, 
and causing them to perpetuate themselves. This failed as far as Virginia seed was concerned, but the Taunton 
river or "Somerset" seed, tried by Mr. S. E. Higgins (the pioneer iu this work) in 1878, lived and throve. In 1879, 
having sprinkled a portion of the bottom of the bay with clean shells to catch any stray spawn, he deposited a 
quantity more of this hardy seed, and in 1880 will add largely to his stock, which, as yet, has suffered no serious 
harm. He has been followed iu his enterprise by several other gentlemen in Boston and Wellfleet, and the 
business bids fair to be an entire success. 

The planting grounds are off Great island, where there is from three to six feet of water over the beds at low 
tide. The bottom is hard sand, uith a thin layer of mud over it, the kind of bottom most highly esteemed. The 
enemies of the oyster are few, and the currents so arranged as to make a large catch of spawn probable. The 
water is very salt, the growth of the mollusk rapid, aud the result a bivalve of high quality. The great drawback 
is the winter, and this is not greatly feared. The harbor freezes entirely over, but the oysters are planted in a 
depth of water so great as to be out of reach of the ice. However, even if the ice rests upon them, provided they 
lie flat, it will only crowd them into the sand, and will not kill them under ordinary circumstances, but if it is 
shifted about by wind or tide when upou the beds, it will tear them to pieces. There is not much chance of extensive 
damage in this way. What will prove fatal to all of them, however, is "anchor frost", if it occurs under the beds. 
But the chances are that this will not happen for several winters together. 

One of the gentlemen engaged gave me the following figures as an estimate of probable investment and returns, 
but it was considered by other shi]>pers too sanguine a view. The cost of planting 500 bushels of seed from Somerset 
woidd be $250. He calculated that they would at least be doubled iu number at the end of the ensuing year, 
making 1,000 bushels, and that by the next spring (allowing 500 lor loss by accidents and death) there would be 
1,500 bushels on the bed. There would now be 1,000 bushels of these ready to take up, at a cost of 20 cents or so 
a bushel. These would sell for at least $1 a bushel, leaving 80 cents profit. Thus — 

Cost of original bed, 000 bushels $25" 

Took up in two years, 1,000 bushels, at 20 cents cost 200 

Received for 1,000 bushels 1,000 

Profit accruiug in two years - 550 

This doubling of the investment in two years is not unreasonable, in my opinion, besides having a good growing 
bed left over; but requires a continuance of good weather and other fortunate cii cum stances, and takes no account 
of the numerous petty expenses occurring, from time to time, in the care of the beds. 

Suitable localities for oyster-cultuee north of Cape Cod. — I have been asked in particular as 

•Thacher's Siatory of Phjmonlh, p. 170. 


to the probability of success in restocking the former haunts of the oyster in the rivers of Maine, and especially 
at Damariscotta. I learn that occasionally oysters, of what origin I do not know, have by accident been dropped 
into the tide-water below the biidge, in Damariscotta, and have afterward been fished out grown to a large size. 
The reader will remember, that about forty years ago, a great quantity of young oysters were found collected in 
the bsanches of a tree which had tumbled over into the river near the lower end of Salt bay. These facts go to 
show that some kinds of oysters will live and spawn there yet ; whether anything but native seed would, or not, is 
doubtful. Furthermore, the site of the former beds is now so covered with mud and sawdust and eel-grass, that 
much of the space is rendered unsuitable, while the clearer bottom of Oyster creek is liable to be drained so dry 
by some of the ebb-tides in winter, as to allow the ice to rest fairly upon the bottom, which would probably be fatal 
in that climate. Hereafter no sawdust will be thrown into the river and bay, if the law is enforced as it might 
be, but nothing can prevent the roiling of the water by a heavy rain. On the whole, I fear only a very limited 
cultivation of oysters is possible in that locality, even if a successful beginning could be made. 

The same dismal remarks will apply to George and Sheepscot rivers. In the former stream I am informed that 
an attempt at planting was made a few years ago, but failed. In Sheepscot river nothing has been tried, but it is 
hinted that, even if other conditions were favorable, every seed-oyster would be secretly transferred from river-bottom 
to frying-pan before time had been given to begin to spawn. Police measures would prevent this, however. 

At Portland, Mr. C. B. Fuller thinks the only suitable situation to attempt the cultivation of oysters, in that 
region, is in the mouth of the Presumpscot, where the water is shallow, warm, and comparatively fresh ; but he 
doubts the ability of southern oysters to survive the winter. However, it is intended by one of the dealers to try 
the experiment with seed oysters from Prince Edward island. 

In the Great bay, behind Portsmouth, New Hampshire, beds of native, living oysters still flourish, and by 
judicious tran.splanting of these a large additional yield might be accomplished. There is much suitable ground, 
I judge. It is likely that the present inferior quality of these oysters might be greatly improved by cultivation. 
It is verj- probable, also, that Somerset or Wellfleet seed would exist through a winter, become acclimated, and 
prosper in this well-sheltered and firm-bottomed inlet. I wonder that some one has not yet made the experiment. 

Unless it be Mystic river or Barnstable harbor, I know of no other likely place for oyster-cultivation on the 
northern side of Cape Cod. Where rocks, mud, or ice are not obstacles, starfishes and other enemies are likely to 
annoy, or proper protection of the beds to be impracticable. 



Early otstee-ctjlture : History. — Realizing that their natural resources in oysters had disappeared, and 
that any attempt to preserve the beds by a system of propagation was unsuccessful, the people of the coast of 
Massachusetts bay turned their attention many years ago to replacing their oysters by importations from more 
favored regions, which should be kept in good condition during the warmer half of the year, bj' being laid down in 
the shore-water, and so held in readiness for the autumn-trade. This operation was called " planting ", but it is a 
misuse of the word, and the other popular phrases, " laying down " or " bedding", express the fact more truthfully. 
It is not oyster-culture at all, but only a device of trade to get fresh oysters and increase their size and flavor, which 
adds proportionate profit in selling. It is neither intended or desired that they shall spawn. 

Just when this practice began on Cape Cod — for Wellfleet, whence had come the latest and best of the native 
oysters, naturally became the headquarters of the trade— is uncertain ; no doubt it was some time befoi-e the opening 
of the present century. There is a gentleman now living in the village of Wellfleet, Mr. Jesse D. Hawes, who is 
eighty-four years old. He cannot remember when they did not bring some oysters every fall from New York bay, 
to use at home and sell in Boston. 

It is surmised that when the native beds became exhausted, the inhabitants got into the habit of going to 
Buzzard's and Narraganset bays, then to the Connecticut shore, and finally to New York, and laying down more and 
more yearly in Wellfleet harbor, until finally a considerable business grew. Egg Harbor, New Jersey, was also a 
ground much frequented a little later by oystermen. 

By the year 1820, I am informed by Mr. F. W. True, who made inquiries for me on this subject, 12,000 to 14,000 
bushels were brought to Wellfleet yearly, and ten or twelve shops were opened by Wellfleet men for their disi)osal 
in Boston and Portland. This accounts for the striking fact, that there is hardly an oyster dealer on the New 
England coast, north of Cape Cod, who is not a native of Wellfleet, and a certain small circle of old names seems to 
inclose the whole trade. Besides the citizens, however, many strangers came in and procured the privilege of bedding 
down imported oysters to fatten on the flats of this hospitable harbor. In 1841, Mr, Gould, the conchologist, 
wrote that the whole trade at Wellfleet then employed 30 vessels of about 40 tons each, and the services of about 
120 men for three months of the year. This jaelded to the town a revenue of about $8,000 annually. 

Early oyster-culture: Methods. — The process of "bedding down" was as follows: Each proprietor of a 
space upon the flats chartered the services of a vessel, in the latter part of the winter, to go to some sjjecified 
oyster-ground and purchase a certain number of bushels, for which he gave the captain money. The vessel was 


chartered at a roiiud sum for the trip, or else was paid at a rate varying from 15 to 20 cents a bushel freight, on 
the cargo. When the vessel arrived home she anchored in the distaut channel, and the oysters were unloaded into 
dories, 50 bushels to a dory. The dories then proceeded to the grounds, which had been already divided into 
rectangles a few rods square, by rows of stakes, and deposited a load of 50 bushels in each rectangle or "square". 
In order that the oysters might be distributed as evenly as possible over the bottom, the dory was rowed to the 
center of a square, and anchored at both ends. The dorymeu then threw out the oysters with shovels into all parts 
of the square. This was done when the water was high over the beds. When the tide was out the oysters were 
redistributed with forks or "spreading-machines". The similarity of this procedure to the seeding of a field is 
obvious, and sutHciently explains the phrase "oyster-planting". It afforded occupation to a distinct class of men, 
who did it by contract, the ordinary price being about 10 cents a bushel for placing them upon the beds. The 
season for bedding began in February, as soon as there was a surety of no further danger of hard freezing, and 
continued until April, the ground chosen being the hard surface of the flats in the western portion of the bay, 
where the beds would be left dry about two hours at each low-tide. The oysters had very little fresh water near 
them, and their growth was variable, seeming to dejjcud on the weather, but in what way, or just how it eflected 
them, I could not learn. In a favorable season they grew very rapidly, in respect to both shell and meat, so 
that the 100 bushels put down in April would fill 300 bushel measures when taken up in October. The percentage 
of loss was always considerable, however, probably never less than one quarter, and now and then amounting to 
the whole bed. Drifting sand, sudden frosts, when the beds were exposed, disease, and active enemies, were the 
causes that operated against complete success. I could not obtain satisfactory information concerning prices 
during the first quarter or half of the present century, and am inclined to believe they did not differ much from the 
present rates, except that selling i-ates were uniformly higher, and far more profit was realized than is now possible. 
Dr. Gould describing the winter-woi'k in his Invertebrates of Massachusetts, states that in the autumn the oysters are 
taken up, selected, brought to market, and sold at wholesale for $1 per bushel, the cost of planting, attending, 
taking up, etc., amounting to 20 cents per bushel. Thus a profit of 30 cents on a bushel, or about 40 per cent, on 
the cost, is realized ; and the town of Wellfleet thereby realizes an income of about $8,000 annually. 

Introduction of Virginia seed. — It was asserted by citizens of Wellfleet, both to me and to Mr. True, that 
not until 1845 were any oysters brought to Wellfleet from Virginia, and that the cause of their importation then 
was the high price asked for " seed ", as the oysters purchased in the Somerset river, in Connecticut, and in New 
York, for bedding, were erroneously termed. William Dill is credited with being the first captain engaged in the 
Chesapeake trade. I think, however, that there is an error here, for Gould mentions iu his book that in 1810, 
40,000 bushels were brought to Wellfleet annually from Virginia, at a cost of $20,000. Nevertheless, it was not 
until about 1845 or 1850, that the business began to confine itself to Virginia oysters, and a large business to be 
done. At its height, about 1850, it is probable that more than 100,000 busliels a year were laid down in the harbor; 
some say 150,000. One consignment alone of 80,000 bushels was remembered by Mr. S. R. Higgius, who kindly 
gave me the many facts noted above. The favorite ground was at the mouth of Herring river. 

This great business gave employment to many men and vessels, and was eagerly welcomed by the Wellfleet 
people. Eesponsible men were accustomed to meet the incoming vessels and take contracts to bed the oysters. 
The ordinary price was 9 cents a bushel. They hii-ed help at day's wages, and often made a good profit. Fifty 
men would thus often be busy at once. 

During the summer partly, but chiefly in the fall, these great deposits, which would perish during the cold 
winter, but were now well-grown, were raked up and sent to the warehouses iu Boston, Portland, aiid minor ports, 
in freight vessels and iu packets. Usually the oysters were owned and bedded by dealers, who used" them iu their 
regular trade, but some were owned by speculators, who took them to market, or sold them to dealers as they lay 
uj)on the beds, the purchaser taking all risks. The measure used for oysters in those days was a half-barrel holding 
a bushel, called a " bushel-barrel". 

Decline op oyster-trade. — The war of the Eebellion, however, interfered somewhat with the oyster-trade, 
and it began to decline, so far as Wellfleet was concerned. Then the various dealers in northern ports, having 
learned something, began to bed near home in their own harbors, and so saved freightage. Finally, the steamers 
from jSTorfolk and the railways entered into so serious a competition, that fully ten years ago Wellfleet bay was 
wholly deserted by the oystermen, as a bedding-ground, though her vessels still continue to carry cargoes in winter 
from Virginia to Boston, Portland, Salem, Portsmouth, and the Providence river, to supply the active trade and 
fill the new beds, which the dealers at these various ports had learned could be established at home. 

The reader thus discovers how important a part Wellfleet has played in the history of the oyster-trade of New 
England. A hundred thousand bushels of the bivalves once grew fat along her water front, and thousands of 
dollars were dispensed to the citizens in the industry they created. Now, a little experimental propagation, of the 
value of a few hundred dollars, and about 0,000 bushels of bedded oysters from Virginia, worth perhaps $5,000 
when sold, form the total active business. The oyster -fleet, however, remains, though greatly diminished and 
carrying its cargoes to Boston, Portland, and elsewhere, instead of bringing them to be laid down in the home 
harbor. It will be long before Wellfleet, and its neighbor, Proviucetown, lose the prestige of old custom as 


Wellfleet oysTER fleet in ISTS^'SO. — The vessels registered at Wellfleet, that habitually take part in 
the oyster-trade, and Ibruied the fleet of the seasons of lS78-'79 and 1879-'80, are the foUowiug, all schooners : 

Name. Tons. Name. Tous. Name. Tons. 

Lizzie D. Barker 76 Edward Rich 74 Addio F. Colo 76 

Nathan Cleaves 80 Alice P. Higgins 92 Emma A. Iliggins 94 

EffieT. Kemp 63 Lizzie Smith 77 Carrie G. Crosby 58 

Flora A. Newcomb 70 Benjamin Oliver 78 Nil Desperandum 80 

MarySteele 70 Benjamin S. Wright 108 E.H.Norton 57 

George T. Littlefleld 112 Gertrude Summers 64 Ida R. Freeman 59 

Lucy M. Jenkins 70 H.W.Pierce 74 Abby Frankfort 71 

Asa H. Peroere 9S> Maria Webster 58 

Mary E. Whorf 65 Lucy J. Keeler 94 Total tonnage 2,239 

Walter L. Rich 80 Charles F. Atwood 70 

Newell B. Hawes 90 Nannie E. Waterman 60 

Pkovingetown oyster FLEET, 1878. — From Provincetown there also hails a fleet of schooners ni the oyster- 
trade, that may as well be put down here, since all remarks will apply to both. Those running in l878-'7y were : 

Name. Tons. Name. Tons. Name. Tons. 

Ellie F. Long 98 Freddie W. Allton 86 Etta E. Sylvester 90 

Freddie Walter 82 M. E. Higgins 94 Mary Snow 71 

Willie L. Swift 101 Kit Carson 94 E. A. Lumbard 65 

William Matheson Ill John M. Fiske 81 

Teresa D. Baker 87 Lottie Bell 96 Total tonnage 1,539 

Mary Matheson 115 Belle Bartlet 76 

Lottie Burns 97 Delia Hodgkins 95 

Characteristics op Cape Cod oyster-schooners. — This list of 46 schooners comprises, I think, the whole 
of the Cape oyster-fleet ; and there are few vessels engaged outside of these ports. They were noted in the old 
days, as now, for their swiftness in speed and firmness of structure, and were the origin and ijrototypes of the 
famous Boston clipper-ships. The original cost of these fine vessels was, on the average, about $7,000; now they 
are not worth over $4,000 each. In summer tbey go on mackerel-fishing voyages, which occupy a little more 
than half of the year. In the winter and spring they carry oysters, varying it with frequent coasting trips. Four 
voyages after oysters annually would probably be a fair average, and not more than a third of the vessels' yearly 
receipts, as a rule, will be derived from this source. They are commanded by captains of experience, and go back 
and forth quickly, safely, and profitably. Capt. Jesse Freeman, now one of the leading fish-merchants of the village, 
told me that he had sailed between the Chesapeake and northern ports 316 times before he was forty years old, that 
is 158 voyages. His opinion was that no cargo wore upon a vessel less (others say the opposite), and it was usually 
of much profit to the owners. In the si:)i'ing, oysters for bedding are brought cheaper than those designed for 
market in winter. 

The CREWS and their profits. — The crew of an oyster-vessel usually consists of two (often three) men 
before the mast, with a cook, mate, and captain. One-third (as a rule), sometimes one-half, of the freight-money 
goes to the owners, and the remainder to pay the men and furnish food. The wages of a mate in 1879 were $30 a 
month; of a cook, $25; and of a seaman, $15 to $1G. Food for a voyage costs from $40 to $50. In addition to 
his share, the owners give the captain $15 a month. 

Suppose, then, a load of 3,000 bushels, with freight at 18 cents a bushel, bought after 30 days' voyage. The 
proceeds would be divided as follows: 

3,000 bushels, at 18 cents |I540 00 

One-third to owners |;180 00 

Mate's salary 30 00 

Three men, .at ^15 45 00 

Cook's salary 25 00 

Provisions 45 00 

325 00 

Remains for general bills and captain 215 00 

Three seasons' work done by a Wellfleet schooner. — As an example of the history of an oyster- 
schooner's voyages, I give a copj- of what was done in two years by one of the vessels in the above list. Her 
length was 86 feet; breadth, 23 feet; depth, 8 feet 6| inches ; measurement, 97.95 tons. She was owned by fifteen 
partners, and in 1876 cost in Newburyport $9,819 63. The record of her trips from 1877 to 1879 stands : 

Spring 1877, first trip, 3,000 bushels, at 18 cents freight $540 00 

Spring 1877, second trip, 3,400 bu.shels, at 18 cents freight 613 08 

Spring lb77, third trip, 3,01-J bushels, .at 18 cents freight 542 16 

Spring 1877, fourth trip, 3,.')50 bu.shels, at 18 cents freight 639 00 

Spring 1877, fifth trip, 3,286 bushels, at 18 cents freight 591 48 

Whole stock...... 2,925 72 

Great generals (or expenses charged to account of vessel) 460 15 

2, 4G5 .57 



Oue-balf schooner's share , |1,232 78 

Two and one-half per cent, of whole stock to captain 73 14 

1, 159 64 
By charter onload to plant 140 00 

1,299 64 
Mate's wages $289 50 

Bills paid by captain 53 42 

342 92 

Balance due owners 956 72 

1877. ~~ 

Nov. 26. 3,475 bushels, at 18 cents freight 625 50 

Dec. 26. 3,579 bnshels, at 18 cents freight 644 22 


Feb. 6. 3,746 bnshels, at 18 cents freight 674 28 

March 7. 3,621 bushels, at 18 cents freight 651 78 

April 16. 3,463 bushels, at 18 cents freight 623 34 

May 6. One load to Providence 400 00 

3,619 12 

One-third schooner's share 1,206 37 

To bills paid by captain 109 08 

Balance to owners 1,097 29 


Dec. 18. 3,765 bushels, at 18 cents freight 677 70 


Feb. 1. 3,885 bushels, at 18 cents freight 699 30 

March 4. 3,789 bushels, at 18 cents freight 682 02 

April 5. 3,732 bushels, at 16 cents freight .597 12 

April 26. 3,600 bushels, at 15 cents freight 540 00 

3, 196 14 
Port charges 296 32 

2, 899 82 

One-third schooner's share . 966 61 

Schooner's biUs 44 34 

Balance due owners 922 27 

Financial profits of the oyster-schooners. — In settlement with the owners of the schooners just referred 
to, for these three oystering seasons, the summaries stood as follows : 




$826 89 
226 89 

$1, 206 37 
448 95 

$906 61 

BiUs . .. 

250 08 

Balance due owners , . 

600 00 

757 42 

710 53 

This was divided among the owners in the following proportions : 




A .. 


$206 25 
112 50 
37 50 
37 50 
18 75 
18 75 
18 75 
18 75 
37 50 
)8 75 
37 50 
9 37 
9 37 
9 37 
9 37 

$260 26 
141 96 
47 32 
47 32 
23 63 
23 66 
23 66 
23 66 
47 32 
23 66 
47 32 
11 83 
11 83 
11 83 
11 83 

$246 20 


134 34 

C . 

44 78 


44 78 


22 39 


22 39 


22 39 


22 39 


44 78 

J .. . 

22 39 

K . . 

44 78 


11 ID 


11 19 


11 19 


11 19 


599 98 

757 12 

716 46 


It is probable tbat this season (1870-'S0) tlie sum of tlie freiglits paid to Wellfleet and Provincetown schooners 
on oyster-cargoes alone, will exceed $75,000, and the losses and casualties will be few. The competition of the 
steamers between jSTorfolk and Boston, of the railroads, and particularly the recent custom of opening so many 
oysters in Virginia, has been severely hurtfid, however, to the oyster-schooner interests. 

1 may add an odd note of interest to naturalists. At Wellfleet are found many marine invertebrates not known 
elsewhere north of Virginia, which the naturalists of the United States Fish Commission say were probably 
introduced with imported oysters. 

Statistical recapitulation for Wellfleet and ticinitt: 

Number of planters, wholesale-dealers, and shippers -• 3 

Number of vessels and sail-boats engaged schooners*.. 46 

Present value of same - - $185,000 

Number of sailors employed (three months) 250 

Earnings of same - |ll5, 000 

Total caruiugs of schooners |75, 000 

Annual sales of — 

I. Native oysters bushels.. 600 

Value of same - ^00 

II. Chesapeake "plants" bushels.. 6,000 

Value of same - $5,000 

Total value of oysters sold annually $5,500 


Early history of the oyster-business. — The natural resources of the harbor in oysters, and the extent 
to which they entered into its early commerce, have already been hinted at in paragraph six. 

When the natural beds in the Charles and Mystic rivers gave out, Boston derived its oysters from the natural 
beds at Wellfleet and in Buzzard's bay, but mainly from the first named. When, in turn, these became exterminated, 
toward the close of the last century, Boston dealers began to bring shiploads of oysters fi-om the shores of Buzzard's 
and Narraganset bays, directly to the city in winter, and in the spring bedded at Wellfleet supplies for the ensuing 
summer and autumn. This has been explained in the account of Cape Cod, preceding this. These cargoes were 
taken up in the early fall, and sent in sloops and schooners to Boston. There the schooners were dismantled and 
tied up, or else the cargoes were transferred to hulks (old mastless vessels) and covered with so thick a layer of 
sea-weed that no frost could get at them. These hulks were towed up into the docks close to Faneuil Hall, the 
recollection of which is preserved in the name of Dock square, and there the oysters were sold to retail-dealers, 
peddlers, and other customers, either in the shell or opened. Another favorite place for the oyster-vessels to lie 
was about where the Boston and M, ine railway station now stands, in Haymarket square. At that time a canal, 
well remembered by old citizens, ran through from the Charles river to the city wharf, following what is now 
Blackstone street. Another wharf for oyster-boats occupied the present site of the New England hotel. Prices 
then ranged higher than now in some respects and lower in others. A bushel in the shell (at wholesale), or a gallon 
opened, cost 62: this was "in liquor", the "solid" gallon being a recent invention. In the restaurants they charged 
uinepence (12^ cents) for a "stew", and fourpence (6^ cents) for a "dozen" of fourteen; or you could buy a better 
quality for 7 cents. 

There was a queer custom in vogue in those days, half a century ago. Besides the hawking about the streets, 
which has survived, a few men used to "bag" them. Taking a bag of the bivalves on their backs, they would go 
in the evening to a house where there was a lively family, or, perhaps, where a company of friends had assembled. 
A carpet would be spread in the middle of the parlor on which the damp bag would be set, when the peddler would 
open the top, shuck an oyster, and pass it upon the half-shell to his nearest customer; then another for the next, 
and so on. Some lively scenes must have been enacted around that busy bagman, as his knife crunched rapidly 
through the brittle shells, and the succulent morsels disappeared down fair throats. 

Meanwhile, more and more oysters were being brought every winter from Long Island sound, Newark bay. 
New Jersey, and southern waters, mainly in Cape Cod vessels, as I have shown, but somewhat, also, in Boston's 
own craft, for in those days there were more mackerel-fishermen hailing from the city than there now are. 

Introduction of Virginia oysters. — When oysters first began to be brought to Boston from Virginia I 
could not ascertain with precision. The patriarch of the business, Mr. Atwood, of the firm of Atwood & Bacon, says 
that when he began dealing in Water street in 1826, oysters were being brought regularly from Chesapeake bay in 
small quantities. He thinks the first cargo arrived about 1824. Mr. J. Y. Baker assures me that in L830, 20,000 
bushels from all quarters sufficed for Boston. About 1840 Gould estimated that 100,000 bushels would cover the 
consumption of uU Massachusetts. Business rapidly increased, however, as the subjoined figures of the importations 

* Seventeen of these schooners, worth $(38,000, are registered at Provincetown, which otherwise does not appear as an oyster-locality. 


of oysters in cargoes from Virginia, by Atwood & Bacon alone, will show. Besides these there were eight or ten 
other dealers in the city. Atwood & Bacon received — 

Bushela. I BuBhels. 

In 1846 32,575'ln 1853 123,097 

lu 1850 90,354 

In 1851 90,587 

IQ 1855 105,752 

In 1857 83,000 

These were by their own nine vessels alone ; they had occasional cargoes otherwise. The largest lot (1853) cost 
them $41,85.3, which gives an idea of values. Freight in those days was 17 cents. 

At i^resent very few oysters, indeed, are bedded in the vicinity of Boston, while of propagation there is none 
whatever. The grounds in the harbor were never very excellent, and became less so as the city increased in size. 
The encroachments of the building and filling in along the water-front over-ran the old limits of the bedding-grounds, 
and even the ancient natural beds. Where the Boston and Maine railway's car-house stands, a leading dealer not 
many years ago laid down -42,000 bushels in a single season. It was known as White isUuid at that time. The 
South Boston flats are being graded up into streets, and the Charles, Mystic, and Maiden rivers. Bird island, and 
other places were long ago abandoned, because the wharves or the sewerage of the city has destroyed their 
Hsefulness to the oystermun. Instead of bedding in his own harbor, therefore, the Boston dealer, as a rule, now 
rents ground in Buzzard's or ISTarraganset bays, and lays down there (the principal gn.nTrJs being about the mouth 
of Providence river) the Virginia oysters he proposes to use for his summer- and autumn-trade, or else he has 
abandoned the i^ractice altogether. The process of bedding will be dwelt upon in the chapter upon the Khode 
Island fisheries. 

The oyster-trade during the Eebellion. — The coming on of the war of secession found the Boston 
oyster-trade in its niost flourishing condition. More cargo-oysters were brought then, than ever since; prices were 
high and profits large. The shipping interests fostered by it were large, too, for the competition of railways and 
steamers had hardly made itself felt. Most of the large dealers ran lines of vessels of tlieir own, as well as chartering 
additional assistance in the spring. In the demand for fast sailers which the oyster-business created, is found the 
origin of that celebrated model of sailing vessel that made America famous on the seas — the clipper-ship. The first 
of these were made by Samuel Hall, a noted shipbuilder, at his yard in East Boston, and were named Despatch, 
Montezuma, Telegraph, and Express. They were from 90 to 120 tons, old measurement, and carried an average cargo 
of 2,500 bushels of oysters. Six months in the year these clippers were devoted to bringing oysters from Virginia. 
There were thirty-five or forty of these "sail" running, and in the summer they would go fishing. The freight 
tariff on oysters was then 20 cents, and during the war it went as high as 25 cents a bushel. 

The war interfered sadly with the business of oystering. Often the military operations did not admit of the 
cultivating and raking of the beds in Virginia and Maryland, or of the schooners from northern ports going where 
they wished to buy. A period of higher costs and shortened sales was in store for the dealers, and they have not 
yet quite recovered the prosperity of 1860. The greatest period of depression was 1874-'75, when the business was 
almost a failure. I think none of the dealers " suspended ", however. 

Attempts at oyster-culture. — In the course of this business, as long ago as the traditions of the trade go 
back, a few bushels were now and then laid down in various parts of the harbor to keep them from spoiling. But 
this was not at first a regular and systematic thing. The bedding-grounds were usually in the Charles, Mystic, 
Maiden, and Pines rivers, often above the bridges, or on the Winthrop shore. Later all the dealers bedded on the 
South Boston flats, which are now being wholly filled up by the New York and New England railway. There was 
a large, oval, bare space here, occupied by all the dealers in the city, who had it regularly divided. Mr. J. H. 
Wiley's father's portion was at the extreme end, and was bounded by eel-grass. He experimented by putting oysters 
over, upon, and among the eel-grass, and found that they did far better than those on the open flat, which had been 
occupied for a long time, and ebbed dry. Mr. Wiley supposed that the reason was, that it was new ground, from 
which fresh and plenteous nourishment was to be derived. The grass afforded so much j)rotection, also, that many 
oysters used to survive the winter. 

The Boston oyster-fleet of 1878-'79.— At present (1879-'80) the only vessels, so far as I could learn, 
registered in Boston and engaged in the oyster-carrying trade, are the following schooners, all the property of a 
single firm : 

Name. Tons. 

William H. West 68 

Eddy Pierce 96 

Alice 89 

Barty Pierce 95 

Name. Tods. 

J. M. Ball 87 

Neponset 74 

Long wood 66 

Leona 100 

Opened oysters in the Boston market.— Another great change from ancient methods of conducting the 
business has been caused by the introduction of opened oysters from Norfolk. These are received twice a week 
(Tuesdays and Fridays) by steamer direct from Norfolk, and on other days, to a less extent, by steamer from Norfolk 
to New York, and thence by railway. In the neighborhood of 250,000 gallons were thus handled in Boston during 
the winter of 1879-'80, lor they come only between September and April. They are shipped in barrels and kegs. 


Tbe effect of tliis innovation has been very marked upon the trade ; whether for good or ill there are two opposite 
opinions, the general verdict being that this feature works against the best interests of the trade. In their favor, 
it is said, in general, that they cau be sold cbcaper than any other oysters, and hence are accessible to the poorer 
class of people ; that they are as good as the cargo-oysters, and that in the increased number sold is compensation 
for the diminished percentage of profit. I will quote some opinions expressed to me in this direction: 

The Boston Oyster- Company considered the iiniovatiou of Norfolk opened oysters not unfavorable to business 
generally, although hurtful to the cargo-trade. Although higher profits were received five or six years ago, three 
times as many gallons are sold now as then, and hence dealers can afford to take less. Selling more cheaply a 
grade of goods equal to the old stock opened here, they give better satisfaction and sell more. There is less risk, 
also, than with cargoes, in which they had relinquished large dealings. They washed all their oysters from Norfolk 
carefully, and had heard no complaint of ill-health resulting from eating them. 

The Chesapeake Oyster-Company deal almost wholly in opened oysters, and believe in the Norfolk trade, for 
the same reasons as given in the report of the " Boston " company, and say that, with their refrigerator barrels, they 
have no trouble with warm-weather losses. One of the advantages of this new business is, that a man can begin it 
with small means, since the stock may be procured in quantities as small, or large, as desired. 

11. R. Higgins thought the oysters opened iu Norfolk as good by the time they got here as those of the same 
grade opened here out of cargoes. He used them largely, and had opened a branch-house in Norfolk in order to 
compete with the Norfolk shippers on their own ground. By sending to his customers fidl packages, he avoided 
the complaints against the Virginia shippers, that they sent "scant" barrels, pretending to allow for a "swell" of 
the contents, which does not occur. 

This, I believe, completes the list of those who would not be glad to see the Norfolk opened oysters disappear 
from the market. Indeed, so strong is the prejudice, that an effort was made about two years ago to induce the 
legislature to forbid their importation into the state ; but this failed, it being opposed not only by certain consumers 
and carriers, but by two or three of the wholesale-dealers themselves. In opposition to them it is asserted that 
their quality is poor ; that they are unhealthy ; that the losses attending them are greater than with cargoes, and 
that they unduly cheapen all superior grades of stock. Two grades are brought to Boston, but for one of the 
"selected" come ten barrels of the "common", the cheapest and poorest oysters brought to the Norfolk market. 
The alleged injuriousness of them is said to arise from their too great age when they arrive. It is almost impossible, 
any way it is arranged, to get the stock from Norfolk to Boston's customers in less than a week. If they are put 
upon the steamer in Norfolk immediately upon being opened, come speedily, and the weather remains cold, little 
fault will be found. It is rare, however, that this favorable conjunction of circumstances occurs, and a largo 
percentage of almost every cargo is thrown away. One firm dumped overboard 300 gallons out of a single shipment 
recently. Under such circumstances the wholesaler will save all he can, inchuliug now and then some he ought to 
throw away ; and the same thing will occur in the shop of the retailer, so that frequently tbe consumer gets oysters 
not fit to eat. Eumors of sickness and death resulting are common enough, but I failed to trace any to a 
trustworthy origin in truth. They are often dirty, and are washed again and again, until the aroma and delectable 
flavor is all gone from their lacerated and rinsed remains. They are only tit to be cooked in a method calculated 
to disguise their insipidity, by the time Vermont, Maine, or Canada get them for dinner. 

Nor does it appear that a large increase of sales has followed the introduction of this new stock. Trade has 
changed rather than amplified, wbile prices have been reduced in a marked manner throughout the whole list. If, 
now, tbe wholesale-dealer clears 5 cents a gallon on Virginia oysters, in shell or out, he thinks himself doing well. 
Most of the business is done on a much smaller margin. Considerable profit, however, is made on the "superior 
grade " of Norfolk stock ; but only a little of this is brought on. Worse than this, however, for Boston merchants, 
is the fact that Norfolk cuts out much of their regular custom. A man anywhere can buy five or ten gallons and 
have them sent to him just (or very nearly) as cheap as the wholesaler who gets his thousand gallons. The natural 
result is, that many retailers and large consumers, like tbe hotels, do send direct to Virginia. With tbe cargo- 
method this is out of the question. All consumers near Boston or other importing cities must go there for supplies. 
Take it all in all, Boston thoroughly deplores the innovation, but comforts herself with the conviction, that already 
she sees signs of general dissatisfaction, and looks forward to a speedy abandonment of the new for the old method. 

KiXDs OF OYSTERS SOLD IN BOSTON.— A large variety of oysters are to be found on sale in Boston from 
widely diflerent points. Those from the shore of Connecticut used to be highly esteemed, but they have gone out 
of the Boston market. The "Cape" and "Providence" oysters are better of late, and tbe expense of bringing them 
on is much less tban from Connecticut. About five years ago the very choicest brand eaten came from Wareham, 
at the northern extremity of Buzzard's bay. Now these are poor, and better ones come from Cotuit. on the " heel" 
of Cape Cod, and the best of all (in my judgmeut) are from the Sandwich shore, particularly Monument river. The 
size, fine appearance, and saltuess of the "Cape" or " native" oysters recommend them for "bench" stock, to be 
eaten raw. You see advertised also the Blue-point, Saddle-rock, Stamford, and Norwalk oysters, more familiar 
to New Yorkers; but they are kept for a special, small custom, as " fancy ". 


Boston oyster dealers ajvd oyster-men. — It is not to get at the exact number of persons in Boston 
■who derive their daily support from the oyster-business. The hired help of the wholesale dealers amounts to about 125 
persons the year round, with the addition of about 250 more who are engaged with greater or less steadiness to " shucl^" 
during the colder half of the year. Tlie majority of these persons are married; and I believe that, including the 
dealers themselves, to multiply by four in each case would fairly estimate the number of souls represented — that is, 
the mouths fed. There are, then, in this wholesale trade, deriving their whole sup^iort, about 500 persons ; deriving 
one-half their support, about 1,000 persons. 

It is asserted that there are about 1,000 retail-shops, fish-markets, hotels, and restaurants in the city where 
oysters form a regular part of the sales. I was unable to verify this, but am inclined to believe it rather under 
than over the actual number. It would be a low estimate to say, that an average of one family of &Ye persons in 
each case is supported by the molluscan share of the business, which would add 5,000 persons to the 750 in the 
wholesale department, and give a total of 5,750 persons in Boston estimated to derive their living chiefly out of the 
oyster and clam. Most of the wholesalers run restaurants and lunch-counters. The wages paid vary with 
the kind of employment and the employer, all the way from $4 to $25k. per week. The lowest rates are paid 
to the girls in the restaurant-kitchens, who get from $3 to $5 per week and their board, and to the waiters 
in the restaurants, who receive about $8 a week and board. The men who pack, attend to shipments and delivery 
of orders, who aid in bedding, and do the heavy work of the establishment, will average from $12 to $15 a week. 
The large addition employed between September and May are "openers" or "shuckers", who are paid by the solid 
gallon, and work only when there are oysters to be opened. They are, as a rule, a rough, ignorant class of men. 
In summer they do ordinary laboring jobs, like working on the streets and carrying hods. Their pay has been a 
shilling (17 cents) a gallon for some years, but last season (l878-'79) 18 and occasionally 20 cents was paid; and in 
consequence of a strike on their part it is expected that 20 cents will be the ruling price in 1879-80. It is rare that 
they earn more than 810 a week, and often not half that. The largest day's work at opening oysters that I could 
learn of was jierfoi-med several years ago by a man in Atwood & Bacon's employ, who opened 45 gallons between 
7.30 a. m. and 10.30 p. m.; but this was "liquor" measurement, and he got only 10 cents a gallon for it. Most of 
the openers are married and have large families. 

Prices. — The cost (total, delivered) and selling prices of the various grades of oysters in Boston, are no\f 
about as follows, in 1879 : 

In Shell (per tMs/icH: 

Coat. Sell for. 

From Virginia, in cargo |0 30 to $0 40 

Virginia "plants" 50 to 60 

Bags (common) -- --. 50 to 55 

Bags (selected) 90 to 95 

Lynnhaveu (Virginia fancy) 2 00 to 3 00 

Monument Eiver 1 40 to 1 GO |2 25 to $2 50 

Othcrnatives 95 to 120 

Providence rivers 50 to 60 

Opened (;;«?• gallon): 

From Norfolk (common) 55 to 60 60 to 65 

From Norfolk (superior) 00 to 65 75 to 90 

The dealers would feel satisfied with 20 per cent, of profit, but do not get it. Six or seven cents a bushel and 
five cents a gallon is the usual advance. 

Disposition of the oystek-shells. — Subsidiary to the oyster-business in Boston, is the disposal of the 
empty shells. These are used somewhat for filling in, particularly along the Atlantic-avenue wharves, and are 
largely consumed by the gaslight companies to be burned into lime for purifying their gas. In addition to this 
there are two pulverizing establishments in East Boston that take large quantities. The shells are gathered for 
them by carters and boys of every grade, at odd times, from the saloons, the proprietors of which are glad to get 
rid of them, and taken to the factories, a few barrels at a time. The factories pay 8 cents a barrel, and often men 
are thus able to profitably employ their leisure. The shells are put into a crusher and then through bolts, and 
are thus ground into small fragments, from which the dust is sifted. The machinery employed is precisely that used 
for crushing bones, etc. There is a strong prejudice against the presence of any oyster-shell in the manufactured 
fertilizers, strange to say, and the broken shell finds a market only as food for poultry in place of fine gravel. The 
price is one-quarter of a cent a pound, and a barrel will weigh about 275 pounds. About 500 barrels, valued at 
$375, are sold annually by these factories to the henneries near Boston, and an occasional barrel of the finer grade 
is sold to the biid stores, to be used in "sanding" the floors of cages. 


Statisticai> recapitulation for Boston: 

Number of wholesale dealers aud shippers 10 

Number of vessels engaged 8 

Value of same $20,000 

Number of men hired by dealers — 

Annually — 125 

Semi-annually .■ 250 


Annual earnings of same $85, 000 

Semiannual earnings of same , 35,000 

§120, 000 

Number of sailors employed (three months) 40 

Earnings of same $2,500 

Number of restaurant-servants 1,000 

Annual earnings of same* $500,000 

Total uumber of families chiefly supported 1, 500 

Annual wholesales of — 

I. Native oysters (Cape Cod) bushels.. 15,400 

Selling value of same $15,000 

II. Chesapeake " i)lants" bushels.. t457,500 

Selling value of same $340,000 

III. Fauey stock bushels.. 60,000 

Selling value of same $100,000 

IV. Baltimore and Noriblk "opened stock" gallons.. 3.50,000 

Selling value of same $250,000 

Total whole!«ale value of oysters sold annually $705,000 


Present condition of the oyster-trade. — The oyster-busiuess here, the nest place north of Boston 
where there i.s any original trade, seems quite out of proportion to the importance of the town. The reason is found 
in the fact, that a large surrounding region derives its supplies from this point, as well as the town itself, which 
appears to be highly educated in the eating of all kinds of shellfish. Two schooners, the T. A. Newcomb, 130 tons, 
and the Lizzie Smith, 118 tons, are engaged in the trade. They cost $22,000, but now are worth only about $5,000 
each. In the summer they go on mackereling voyages, but in the winter dev^ote their whole time to bringing oysters 
from Virginia. Ten years ago 25,000 bushels sufiftced for the demand, and a portion of these came from New York 
bay ; in 1875 three vessels were employed, and Salem called for 45,000 bushels, all from the Chesapeake. At present, 
however, the total annual importation by sailing craft does not exceed 40,000 bushels, with about 5,000 bushels by 
steamer from Norfolk, in winter, added. About 500 bushels of "fancy" stock from New York are also sold. A large 
portion of these oysters are sold at the wharf; another large portion goes into the storehouse; a third part are 
opened ; aud the remainder (8,000 to 9,000 bushels) are laid down in Collins bay, near Beverly bar, where they are 
dry at each ebb-tide. No opened oysters are taken from Norfolk or Baltimore. The result is as follows : 

Oysters imported in vessels 40, 000 bushels, costing, at 36 cents $14, 400 

Oysters imported via Boston steamer 5,000 bushels, costing, at 57 cents 2,850 

Oysters (fancy stock) 500 bushels, costing, at $1 00 500 

Totals 45,500 bnshels, costing 17,750 

Selling price of Virginia oysters, imported at wharf, 40 cents. 

Selling price of bedded oysters, iu summer, 90 cents (common), $1 20 (selected). 

Selling price of opened oysters (common). $1 per gallon. 

Selling price of opened oysters (selected), $1 20 i>er gallon. 

Selling price of opened oysters (in winter), 75 cents per gallon. 

Annual amount of business, $40,000. 

The firms engaged employ 43 men from November 1 to May 1 ; the rest of the year about 20 men. This 
represents about 100 persons supported by the business, since many of the men are unmarried. The weekly salaries 
will average $12, and shuckers are paid 20 cents for each solid gallon. 

The old shells are disposed of to the gas company of the city at one-half cent a bushel, the purchaser paying 
, for the carting. This does not take all of the 1,500 or so bushels a week accumulating, which are used by the 
proprietors to fill in water-lots, which they buy for the purpose of thus converting into land. To sell their shells 
is more profitable, however. 

The Nbwoomb jiethod of itnlading cargoes. — The leading firm in Salem, Messrs. D. B. & J. Newcomb, 
boasts an economic method of transferring the cargo from the vessel to the shuckers' broad tables, ranged around 
the interior walls of their shuckinghouse down on the wharf This building is two-storied, and is flush with the side 
of the wharf, so that the vessel moors alongside. A door in the end of the loft' opens upon a railless platform or 

* Somewhat mixed with o^ier duties. t Of these, 140,000 gallons opened are sold annually under the name of " Providence stock ". 


balcony 6 feet square. Here two men stand to receive the loaded tubs of oysters as fast as they are hoisted (by 
horse-power) out of the vessel's hold. When a tub comes withiu reach they seize it, overtirrn it into a wheelbarrow, 
made of one-third of a strong cask, mounted on a wheelbarrow-frame, and one man sends it down while the other 
goes and empties the barrow, returning in time to help -when the tub comes up again. The ordinary method is for 
two men to receive the tub upou the first floor, carry it away, lift it up, and overturu it u[tou the table, while two 
others haud back an empty tub and repeat the operation. This requires four men and much lifting. The Newcombs, 
however, dispense with two men and all the laborious lifting, by receiving their oysters on the upper floor and 
dumping them from a wheelbarrow down shutes that lead to diffei-eut portions of the shucking-table, or to the 
"cool room", where they can store 8,000 bushels at a time, if desired. 

Statistical kecapitulation foe Salem and vicinity: 

Number of wholesale-dealers 3 

Number of schooners engaged 2 

Value of same |10,000 

Number of men hired by dealers - 25 

Semi-annual earuings of same $3, 500 

Number of restaurant-servants - 20 

Annual earnings of same |12, 000 

Total number of families supported 25 

Annual sales of — 

IL Chesapeake "plants" bushels.. 40,000 

Southern, by steamer bushels.. 5,000 

Value of same $40,000 

III. Fancy stock bushels.. 500 

Value of same $750 

Total value of oysters sold annually $40,750 


Southern oysters in Newbxjryport. — The wholesale oyster-business at this port is small. About 3,000 
bushels of southern oysters are sufiflcient for the demand. These cost from 45 to 50 cents per bushel when put 
down, and from an eighth to a quarter of them die during the summer. The bedding-grounds are in Parker river. 
About three families get their support from the business here, but the business is losing ground and is encroached 
upon by the opened stock from Norfolk. 

Oysters sold '. bushels.. 3,500 

Value $3,250 

Families supported 3 


The bttsiness of Portsmouth and Dover. — In Portsmouth, New Hampshire, there are only two dealers 
who trade in oysters by wholesale and at first hand. They each send a schooner to Virginia in April, the voyage 
lasting about three weeks, and bring a load of 2,300 to 2,600 bushels each. Nearly the same course is pursued 
here as in Boston. The captain is given suflicient money to probably fill his vessel, and told to do the best he 
can with it ; but he is not given a rate of freight per bushel, as in Portland, but hired at a given sum, which, in 1878, 
was $425. This amounts, however, to about the same thing as the 18 cents a bushel i)aid for freight to Portland 
and Boston. All these 5,000 bushels of oysters are bedded down on the banks of the river iu Portsmouth harbor, a 
mile or so below the city, where the ebb-tide leaves them nearly dry. They last through to the middle of October, 
with the help of a few "laucy" oysters from New York for the retail -counter. The cost per bushel of these oysters, 
as delivered iu the establishment, varies from 40 to 50 cents, and the average selling price, at wholesale, is 75 cents. 

In the winter no vessels come from Virginia, and all supplies are drawn from Norfolk by steamer to Boston, and 
thence by rail, or, in emergency, by buyiug in Boston or Portland. These are almost wholly opened oysters, in 
barrels and kegs. Not more ihan 1,000 bushels, all told, are supposed to come into Portsmouth during the winter, 
in the shell. The-e cost 50 lo 60 cents. Of the others, I could get nothing better than estimates from each dealer, 
which, added together, give about 45 barrels, or 1,350 gallons, as the combined importation. Perhaps 150 gallons 
more come from Boston, in emergencies. The whole consumi^tion of Portsmouth, then, seems to cost about as 
follows : 

Oysters in vessels. 5,000 bushels - $2,500 

Oysters in shell, otherwise - •'OO 

Oysters opened (about) ..^ , 750 

Oysters, fancy and extra (abiJut) 750 

^ 4,500 

Plate XXX. 

Monograph- O TSTER-IJVD USTR Y. 


Giant Oyster, 14 inches long, from Damariscotta River, Maine (natnral size). 


The oyster-establishments employ 6 men, paid from $6 to $15 per week. In all, 25 persons are supported by 
the trade. No planting has ever been done at Portsmouth, and even those bedded down in the harbor show little 
growth of" shell or body. To supply Dover, New Hampshire, a few miles above, about 2.000 bushels of Chesapeake 
oysters are brought up each spring and laid down in Cocheco river, near the town. A proportionate winter-supply 
comes by rail. 

The natural beds of Great bay. — I was told by Mr. Washington Freeman, of Portsmouth, that this 
'gentleman discovered an extinct bed of largo oysters in the Cocheco river, some years ago, but no Uving ones are 
to be had there now. 

A few miles up from the mouth of the river Piscataqua, and the harbor of the city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 
an extensive bay reaches southward from the river into the lowlands. It is divided into two portions: first, Little 
bay, nearest the river, and second. Great bay, with which the former is connected by Furber's straits, where Durham 
river comes in. A portion of Great bay, on the eastern side, is also known as Greenland bay; and two rivers flow 
into it (the Exeter and Lamprey), besides a multitude of trout-brooks. This interior basin is perhaps ten miles 
long and five to seven wide, but the shores are very irregular. It is so shallow that a large portion of the shores 
are left as dry flats at every low-tide, yet there are channels deep enough to allow large vessels to go up to New- 
market and Exeter, when the water is favorable. This spot was renowned among the Indians for the oysters 
living there, and considerable shell-heaps attest the constant use made of the bivalves. Whatever might have 
been its resources a century or half a century ago, it is certain that within more recent times the locaUty was 
forgotten, or at least made no account of, as oyster-ground, by the large population that inhabited the shores. It was 
therefore looked upon almost as an original discovery when, iu 1871, the explorations of the Coast Survey, which 
was sounding and mapping out the channels, showed that there were oyster-beds still flourishing at many poiuts 
from one end of the bay to the other ; tliat is, in Great bay, for none, to my knowledge, have ever been found in the 
outer Little bay. There were no tools proper for the gathering of oysters in the neighborhood, and very little was 
done at first to make the knowledge gained available. There lived ia Newmarket, however, an old Chesapeake 
oysterman by the name of Albert Tibbetts, who sent to Providence for oyster-tongs, procured boats, and began 
raking in earnest. Others imitated his example, and the following year witnessed great activity. For several 
mouths, I was told, there were probably a dozen boats, with two or three men iu each boat, raking every day, the 
average take being about five bushels to the man. They used not only tongs and rakes, but used also dredges. 
In the winter, also, they would cut long holes in the ice, and dredge the beds by horse-power, stripping them 
completely. It was seen that this rash and wholesale destruction would speedily exterminate the mollusks, and 
laws were passed by the state forbidding the use of the dredge under all circumstances ; making the months of 
June, July, and August "close time"; and forbidding fishing through the ice at any time. The last regulation was 
the greatest help of all, for the ice-rakers would not throw back the (lebris of dead shells, but pile it on the ice, 
where the hundreds of young oysters attached to it would freeze to death. But these beneficent restrictions came 
too late, and the business of oystering has steadily declined, until now only two or three boats keep up a desultory 
search for profitable beds, and a bushel and a half a day is considered good work for each man. Only seven or 
eight persons were engaged during the summer of 1S79, and these not all of their time. All unite in ascribing the 
decline of the industry to over-raking of the beds, and feel disposed to pray for a law forbidding any raking 
whatever during several years, in order to give the oysters a chance to recuperate their depleted ranks. 

The beds, as I have said, are all in Great bay. They occupy the channels at various points, and are each of 
considerable extent. There are perhaps a dozen well known localities or clusters of beds. These are mainly 
situated in Greenland bay, near Nannie's island, along the Stratham channel, up Exeter river to some distance 
beyond the bridge of the Concord railroad, iu the Little channel near by, and up Lamprey and Durham rivers. 
The chief raking now is done off Nannie's island. The average of the water on the beds is hardly more than 
10 feet deep, and it is pretty fresh. The tide-way, as a rule, is strong, and the bottom tough, clayey mud. The 
oysters are very large. I heard of specimens 15 inches long, and those of 9 and 10 are common. One man 
told me of a single specimen procured in 1877 which weighed three pounds and one ounce in the shell, the fleshy 
part alone weighing one pound and one ounce. These large ones, however, all have the appearance of extreme age, 
and are heavy, rough, sponge-eaten, and generally dead, though the ligament still holds the two valves of the shell 
together. In taste, this oyster is flat and rather insipid, which is laid to the too great freshness of the water. It 
takes a large quantity of them to "open" a gallon of solid meat, a bushel not yielding more than two to two 
and a half quarts. As a consequence, there has not been a very great demand for them, though all that can be got 
now are readily disposed of. Formerly the price was §1 a bushel in Newmarket, where they wete chiefly bought; 
but in 1879, 80 cents was the price. No culture of these or of imported oysters has ever been tried here; and the 
chances are against success. 

Since gathering the details given above, I have received the subjoined letter, which explains itself, but must 
I think, be slightly "discounted" in its figures: 

Newmarket, N. H., October 20, 1879. 

Pear Sir : Yours of the 13th at hand. I will give you wh it information I can hy writing, though I Hhoukl have been licttcr iileased 
to have talked with you ou the ojster-question. I could have giveu you more iuformatiou in that way, probahly; but will answer your 
queries as you put them. 
3 o 


I. Oysters were first found in Exeter river ciglit years ago by a government surveying vessel. Oysters were also known to be in 
Durham river and at Nannie's island. I claim to bave found the beds in Great bay four years ago. It is my opinion that there are oyster- 
rocks all the way down to Portsmouth, but the bottom is not suitable for dredging, which is the only way they could be taken after you 
leave Great bay. 

II. For two years they were touged and dredged steadily through the summer-months by an average of 20 persons a day. Some days 
70 to 80 men would be working. The average catch to a man that understood the business was 25 bushels. Wo could have caught more 
by working more hours, but the supply was greater than the demand. We worked about six hours i)er day. 

III. The average catch now to a man is 3 bushels. A cause of the decline is that the marketable oysters have nearly all been caught. 
There are to-day more in number of young oysters than ever before, but they are not yet of marketable value, being in size from a five-cent 
piece to an old penny. If they are not properly protected they will die before they are suitable to use. An oyster needs cultivation and 

IV. Ten thousand bushels is a low estimate of what has been taken the four years I have been here. 

V. The oyster does not find a ready market, not being a profitable oyster for any trade at the price asked for it. There is too much 
shell for the meat. They are a natural oyster, and no natural oyster this side of Sandy Hook finds a ready market, except for the purpose 
of iilanting. For meat and flavor they are but little better than Newark bays. They need transplanting. 

VI. There has been no planting done here of Virginia or New York oysters. It would be no use to plant Virginia oysters here. They 
would be winter-killed. New York natural or hardy oysters would live. There have been a few Virginias bedded from sjiring to fall 
here, and they did better for the time they were overboard than oysters generally do in any water that I am acquainted with ; and I have 
oystered in every state where oysters are worth catching — New Hampshire, Connecticut, Long Island, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, 
Maryland, and Virginia — having done nothing else for 20 years, and having worked for the largest firms in New York. WiU send you 
information any time you write for it. 

Yours, respectfully, 


As I have remarked in another place, I regard this body of water as a very promising field for testing whether, 
with Prince Edward island, Somerset, or some other hardy seed, artificial propagation is not possible at even this 
northern point. 

Statistical recapitulation — Great bay, Portsmouth, and Dover, New Hampshire : 

Number of wholesale dealers 3 

Number of men fishing in sunmier for natives 6 

Number of vessels and sail-boats engaged 5 

Value of same $300 

Number of restaurant servants 6 

Annual earnings of same $2,500 

Total number of persons supported ...... 25 

Annual sales of — 

I. Native oysters bushels.. 1,000 

Value of same $800 

II. Chesapeake "plants" bushels.. 7,000 

Value of same $7,000 

III. Fancy stock - bushels.. 800 

Value of same $1,000 

IV. Value of Norfolk "opened stock" $1,000 

Total value of oysters sold annually $9,800 


History and methods. — No oysters are native at Portland, and the city is supplied directly from the Virginia 
producers. The real beginning of the oyster-trade in Portland was made by James Freeman, about forty years 
ago, and two ship-loads from the South, amounting to, say, 200 bushels a year, filled the demand of Portsmouth, 
New Hampshire, and Portland together. Sometimes, also, a ship-load would be brought from Staten Island to 
Wellfleet, on Cape Cod, and laid down, to be drawn upon during the summer. It was not until a few years ago 
that four merchants began to charter a vessel or vessels to run south and bity oysters, to be divided between them, 
each firm contributing its quota of purchase-money and expenses in proportion to its share of the cargo. 

From 18G9 to 1875, the following amount of oysters were thus brought in : 


May, 1869, to May, 1870 33,369 

May, 1870, to May, 1871 49,906 

May, 1871, to May, 1872 57,332 

May, 1872, to May, 1873 62.786 

May, 1873, to May, 1874 79,767 

May, 1874, to May, 1875 71,673 

From 1875 until the present, accurate statistics are not obtainable. The sum of the oysters now brought 
to the city is believed to be 75,000 bushels a year. 


The cost of the cargo-oysters is about the same in all respects as at Boston, and the business is similarly 
conducted. The cost, in Portland, per bushel, of oysters delivered in the warehouse, then, sums up as follows, at 
an average : 

1869 to 1872 '. 50 cents. 

1872 to 1875 45cent8. 

1876 to 1879 35 cents. 

The selling price for oysters in the shell has ranged fi'om a dollar (ten years ago) down to 55 cents at present. 
This is in winter; in summer it often reaches and exceeds $1 50 a bushel. This increase of price in summer is due 
to the fact that no oysters can then be got in Virginia, where the law enforces a cessation of raking, and to the 
extra expense entailed by "bedding". 

As the weather begins to get warm in the spring, all the surplusage of each cargo which each dealer can spare, 
is sent about five miles down Casco bay in large, open boats, and dumped overboard upon the flats for summer- 
keeping. These oysters improve in quality, fatten up, and the shells add a " feather edge", often of remarkable size. 
It is calculated that one-fourth at least of these will perish, while the increase in value is only from 20 to 25 cents 
more than when they were put down. In consequence, the practice has fallen into disrepute, and only one 
merchant now beds extensively. 

That there has been no growth in the business of importing and selling cargo-oysters commensurate with the 
growing population and cultivated palates of the region tributary to Portland, is acknowledged. The late 
depression in prosperity has made itself felt here, since the oyster ranks among luxuries. Neither so large prices, 
nor, proportionately, so wide profits, can now be obtained. This is ascribed by all dealers to the new fashion of 
buying oysters already opened in ISTorfolk and elsewhere in the South and bringing them here in barrels and cans. 

The transactions in this branch of the trade (which must be added to the former estimates) amount to about 
$1,000 a week for, say, four months. A large part of this stock is supplied at second hand from Boston. Here, 
as elsewhere, there are two opinions as to the real profit of dealing in this opened " barrel " stock. 

The number of persons directly supported by the wholesale oyster-trade in Portland is not large, numbering 
between 40 and 50 families the year round, and half as much occasional help in addition in winter, to assist in 
oijening new cargoes arriving. 

The wages paid to men employed about the establishments vary from $S. to $18 a week, and to girls in the 
kitchen— for each of the wholesale houses has a lunch-room attached — about $4 a week. They also receive their 
board. Those who open the oysters are here called " shuckers". They receive from 15 to 20 cents a gallon for their 
work, and are able to make from $7 to $12 a week as long as work lasts. Formerly many more shuckers were 
employed than at present. 

The vessels employed in carrying the oysters are mackerel-schooners clearing from Cape Cod ports. They 
spend the summer in fishing and the winter in this trade. In 1878, the Mary Steele, Nathan Cleaves, Mary Whorf, 
and H. E. Willard were engaged. An average load is about 3,000 bushels, and a voyage in March has been made 
in ten days, but the usual time is from three to four weeks. 

That in ancient times this locality was tenanted by oysters of the same race as those which lived in Damariscotta 
and Sheepscot waters, and have survived to the present day in the latter stream, is shown by the discovery of 
buried beds of shells, as has already been pointed out and commented upon. 

Statistical recapitulation for Portland: 

Number of wholesale-dealers • • -- * 

Total number of families supported — 10" 

Total number of families partly supported - --- 40 

Annual sales of— 

II. Chesapeakes bushels.. 75,000 

Value of same $50,000 

in. Fancy stock bushels.. 5,000 

Value of same $6,000 

IV. Value of Baltimore and Norfolk "opened stock" -- $15,000 

Total value of oysters sold annually . . • • $71,000 


Native oysters in Sheepscot river. — Four miles west of Damariscotta and Newcastle, in Lincoln county, 
Maine, is a small bed of living oysters and evidences of a greater number in the past. The Sheepscot river flows 
into the head of one of the inlets from the sea with which this rugged coast is filled. At the village of Sheepscot 
Bridge (one of the oldest communities in the United States, having been settled first by the Dutch in 1518) another 
little stream enters, known as Dyer's river. A quarter of a mile below the confluence of these streams is a cataract, 
and below this the widening expanse of one of the most beautiful of Maine's fiords. 

From just below the falls (where there are some mills) to a point about three miles above, oysters were once 


abundant. It is a tradition, tliat a hundred years ago smacks used to come from Boston and load up with these 
oysters ; but I am inclined to doubt the veracity of the tale. The most thickly inhabited j)ortions of this region, 
were the basin just above the falls, the mouth of Dyer's river, and, chief of all, a point about one and a half mile 
above the bridge. 

The bottom of the stream is rough and rocky, and the bivalves were always difficult to get. The ordinary 
method was by diving. Ten years ago it was possible to get a bushel or two in a day up the Sheepscot river ; but 
now Mr. Manly Sargent, the most experienced man in the village, thinks a peck would i)rove a good day's work. 
They grow singly and of great size, shells a foot to fifteen inches in length have frequently been taken. They 
closely resemble in character those at Damariscotta, and are pronounced of very fine quality. 

Speculation has been indidged as to whether this little colony of oysters is a natural one or not. There seems 
to be good evidence to show that it was planted designedly by the Indians, before the advent of white men, with 
mollusks brought from the Damariscotta beds. The i^osition and condition of the colony; the fact that the 
banks of this river were thickly populated by Indians, who might be supposed to know enough to save themselves 
the trouble of going four miles every time they wanted oysters, by transplanting them to their own stream ; the 
fact that no more distant stream has them, although no good reason can be discovered for their absence ; and the 
fact that no shell-heaps of any account exist to attest ancient use of the bed, all seem to confirm this supposition. 
Dr. H. F. Hall, of Sheepscot, who has studied the matter with care, and various others, hold this opinion. As I 
hinted before, it is probable that the isolated oyster-colony in the George river, near Thomaston, was planted in the 
same way, and that Salt bay is the only really native and indigenous home of the oyster anywhere in this region. 
These oysters have no commercial value, of course. They are much rarer than the partridges in the neighboring 
woods, and there is little likelihood of their increasing. iTor are there are any shell-banks to afford a fertilizer for 
the worn and rocky soil. 



Verbill on the oyster-beds of southern Massachusetts. — Buzzard's bay, indenting the southern shore 
of Massachusetts, and nearly separating Cape Cod from the mainland, has been noted since its discovery for its 
natural oysters, and is now the scene of wide cultivation and a large business. It was of this region that Professor 
Verrill wrote the ensuing paragraphs in his Invertebrates of Vineyard Sound, several years ago : 

In Buzzard's bay the bottom is generally muddy, except in very shallow water about some of the islands, where patches of rocky 
bottom occur, and opposite some of the sandy beaches, where it is sandy over considerable areas. Tracts of harder bottom, of mud or 
sand, overgrown wilh algae, occasionally occur. In Vineyard sound the bottom is more varied * * *; muddy bottoms are only 
occasionally met with. 

Attached to the sides and surfaces of rocks and ledges along many parts of this coast, young oysters, Ostrea Firginiana, often occur in 
vast numbers, sometimes completely covering and concealing large surfaces of rocks. But these generally live only through one season, 
and are killed by the cold of winter, so that they seldom become more than an inch or an inch and a half in diameter. They come from 
the spawn of the oysters in the beds along our shores, which, during the breeding season, completely till the waters with their free- 
swimming young. They are generally regarded as the young of " native" oysters, but I am uuable tolind any specific differences between 
the northern and southern oysters, such differences as do exist being due merely to the circtimstauces under which they grow, such as 
the character of the water, abundance or scarcity of food, kind of objects to which they are attached, age, crowded condition, etc. All 
the forms occur both among the northern and southern ones : for they vary from broad and round to very long and narrow ; from very 
thick to very thin; and in the character of the surface, some being regularly ribbed and scalloped, others nearly smooth, and others very 
rough and irregular or scaly, etc. When young, and grown under favorable conditions, with plenty of room, the form is generally round 
at first, then quite regularly oval, with an undulated and scalloped edge and radiating ridges corresponding to the scallops, and often 
extending out into spine-like projections on the lower valve. The upper valve is flatter, smooth at first, then with regular lamelliB, or 
scales, scalloped at the edges, showing the stages of growth. Later in life, esiiecially after the iirst winter, the growth becomes more 
irregular and the form less syumietrical, and the irregularity increases with age. Very old specimens, in crowded beds, usually become 
very much elong.ated, being often more than a foot long and perhajis two inches wide in the adult individuals; for nearly all the oyster- 
shells composing the ancient Indian shell-heaps .along our coast are of this much-elongated kind. Nowadays the oysters seldom have a 
chance to grow to such a good old age as to take this form, though such are occasionally met ^ ith in deep water. The young specimens 
on the rocks are generally mottled or irregularly radiated with brown. They were not often met with on the shores of Vineyard sound, 
for oysters do not flourish well in that sandy region, though there are extensive beds in some parts of Buzzard's bay, and a few near 
Holmes' Hoh^, in a sheltered pond. The oysters prefer quiet waters, somewhat brackish, with a bottom of soft mud containing an abundance 
of minute living animal and vegetable organisms. In such places they grow rapidly, and become fat and fine-flavored, if not interfered 
■with by their numerous enemies. 

Topography : Early abundance of shellfish in Wareham and vicinity — The best starting point for 
inquiries, perhaps, is Wareham, an ancent town on Wareham river, which flows into the northern limit of the bay. 
Below the "Narrows" where the bridge is, there is a broad inlet, known as the Northwestern arm of Buzzard's bay, 
or sometimes as the Waukinco river. Above the bridge the Wareham river flows in, joined by the Agawam river 


from the eastward. Both of these streams are inflitenced by the title for a considerable distance above the village, 
are shallow, and are partiallj' bordered by flats. From the bridge upward for half a mile, there anciently was one 
continuous oyster-bed, and, besides this, various other coves and rivers in the neighborhood were inhabited by these 
and other bivalves. In colonial days the present townships of Eochcster, Matapoiset, Marion, and Wareham, which 
are range<l around the head of the bay, were known as Eochester, and tradition says tliat it was named after the 
city of Eochester, in England (which city was famous for shellfish), because of the abundance of oysters, quahaugs, 
clams, scallops, etc., along the shores. 

Legislation and license in Wareham. — That the earliest inhabitants valued oysters, is a matter of 
history; and even in colonial times they were made the subject of legislative protection by the town, for fear of 
their disappearance, as witness the following : 

In town-meeting at Warebam, voted — • 

March 20, 1775, that there shouUl be no nor shell sold nor carried ont of town. 

March 12, 1781, that no oyster-shells shall be catched to carry out of the town without the leave of .John Fearing, Joshua Briggs, 
& Joshua Crocker, on the penalty of paying six shillings per bushel. 

September 24, 1781, that no person shall catch any oysters or oyster-shells for to carry out of the town or carry themselves out of 
the town on y^ penalty of forfeiting two shillings and^ pence per bushel. 

About 1S40 was argued here the famous case of Dill vs. Town of Wareham, involving rights to oyster-fisheries 
and planting privileges, which the cm-ious in such lore will find both intricate and entertaining. 

As an attempt at regulation of the oyster-fishery, a few years ago, the town divided off into grants all the 
shores of the numerous salt rivers and inlets embraced in the extensive and sinuous sea-coast, and offered these 
grants, under a twenty-years' lease, as ground for the cultivation of oysters. The expense of procuring a grant 
was $2 50, and it was subject to taxation at a valuation of $50. These grants were about 125 in number, and were 
situated in Wareham and Agawam rivers, above the "Narrows bridge", along the shores of the Waukinco river, as 
the broad inlet from the Narrows down to Buzzard's bay is called, and in Broad Marsh river, Crooked river, Mark's 
cove, and the Weeweantit river, all of which are tributary to the Waukinco. On the shore other localities are: 
Brown's cove, Onset bay. Shell Point bay. East river, Long Neck shore, and Cohasset river. The average size of 
the grants is about two acres, giving from 250 to 300 acres of shore suitable to oyster-cidtiire in this town, nearly 
all of which is already granted. 

The seed which has been placed upon these grants, and is to be placed there, is entirely obtained from the 
natural beds, which are abundant in the Agawam, Wareham, and Weeweantit rivers. The incessant raking to 
which the beds were subjected to obtain it, added to the demand for market, threatened extermination so seriously 
that, in 1874, the selectmen decreed that no one should be allowed to fish for ojsters at all, without paying to the 
town a duty of 10 cents a bushel, the proceeds to go to pay an ofiflcer for measuring, etc. Under this rule the town 
issued licenses and received pay, in 1875, from 36 licenses, $303 60, giving 3,036 bushels ; and in 1876, from 47 
licenses, 8425 50, giving 4,255 bushels. 

Since then few licenses have been issued, owing to the opposition and quarreling excited. The oyster-matter 
became a political issue. It is probable that multiplication by three of the results for 1875 and 1876, would give 
the approximate yield for those years, and there is said by all persons to have been a decrease since. 

Markets and prices. — About five years ago no oyster was better received in the Boston market than that 
from Wareham ; it held the first place. Though it has lost this distinction by "opening" poorly of late, it is still 
of fine quality and in demand by the neighborhood markets. Wagon-loads are sent off to Plymouth, Middleboro, 
and elsewhere, frequently through the winter ; and during the season of 1877-'78 the Old Colony railway carried 
780 bushels in shell from the Wareham station, and about 150 gallons of opened stock. From East Wareham 
(Agawam station) there were shipped, during the winter of 1877-'78, 924 bushels in shell, while partial accounts of 
the next season (1879-'80) indicate a large increase. By far the larger part of the yield, however, is sold small, as 
"seed oysters" to be planted upon the beds along the eastern shore of Buzzard's bay and the "heel" of Cape Cod. 
This seed is never carried away to be sold, but the purchasers come after it in spring and faU in sloops of about 
25 feet keel, locally known as "yacht-boats". This seed sells for 30 to 35 cents a bushel in spring, or 60 to 80 
cents in fall, and is one and two years old, mixed. Some experiments have been made in bedding Virginia oysters 
through the summer, but although they lived well enough it was not found profitable. They brought only $4, 
while the native oysters would fetch $0, a barrel. 

Oyster-aflairs in Wareham can hardly be called a business. The title to the grants is very uncertain, the 
impression being that the right to operate upon them exists only through courtesy of the owners of the adjacent 
uplands, and a vast amount of litigation would probably arise if any one chose to object to the present status. This 
feeling, and the jealousy of anything smacking of monopoly, has deterred capital from being invested in any 
considerable degree, although efforts have been made to bring money from New York and Boston to bear upon this 
industry. At present the poor, ignorant, and shiftless portion of the community, for the most part, have to do with 
the oysters, and have found it necessary, in order to protect each other from a common thieving propensity, to 
decree among themselves that no man shall fish after sunset, even upon his own grant. It would be an outside 
estimate to say that 200 persons live upon the oyster in Wareham, at an investment of $3,000. 


Savery on oyster-culture in "Wareham. — Since writing tlie above account I have received the follo^\ing 
instructive communication relating to this region, which I am happy to give entire : 

East Wareham, Mass., January 29, 1830. 

Deab Sir : In order to answer understandiugly your inquiries respecting the oyster-business of Wareham, I find it necessary to give 
you a condensed history of it. 

Oysters "row naturally in the two rivers of Wareham, the Waukinco and the Weeweantit. In the former the natural beds extend 
from Wareham narrows, two miles above its month, about one mile up stream ; in the latter river, the natural beds extend over a distance 
of about two miles. At low tide the water is about two feet deep on these beds, and the bottom is somewhat muddy. Spawn is deposited 
on them every year to a greater or less extent. The oysters grow in clusters, are long and thin, the meat is watery, not firm and soUd, 
though of pretty good flavor, and on the lower part of the beds, where the water at low tide retains its saltness, they do not attain great 
size even when undisturbed, but soon die, and are succeeded by a new growth. Scattering oysters are found in the channels for about one 
mile down stream, of fair size, firm meat, and good flavor, probably carried there when very small, by the current from the natural beds. 

Prior to 1840 the privilege of taking the oysters from these beds was leased to a Wellfleet company, and several thousand bushels 
were carried to Wellfleet harbor, Massachusetts, and there plauted for the Boston market. About 1840, fearing that the natural beds 
would be injured, the town annulled the contract with the Wellfleet company, and but few oysters, excex^t for the use of the inhabitants, 
were taken from these beds for many years. In 1845, Peter Presho, of Wareham, got a grant from the legislature to plant oysters in a 
cove at the upper part of Onset bay, an arm of Buzzard's bay, in East Wareham. He there planted a few hundred bushels of Waukinco 
river oysters with good success, that is, they grew large, were well filled, and of excellent flavor. They did not increase in numbers, no 
spawn seemed to come from them, nor were any small oysters seen on the adjacent shores. 

In 1855 I "■ot a license from the selectmen of Wareham, under the general state law, to plant oysters in Onset bay, adjoining and 
above the Presho "rant. I brought from Rappahannock river, Virginia, "2,200 bushels of large oysters in the mouth of May, ))lanted them 
on my f^rant, intending to market them the next fall. They did not arrive in very good condition, and what lived did not "fill" well, so 
Isold but few, and let the rest remain on the grant. After the first year they "filled" well, and were of excellent quality. In a few 
years young oysters began to catch on the shells and on the stones of the adjacent shores, so that people made a business of catching 
oysters in that vicinity, and from my grant, for the home-market. I proposed planting again, but my busiuess taking me away from 
Wareham, and the late war coming on, prevented my doing so. Young oysters continued to increase, and to be found on various parts 
of the shores of Onset bay, mostly on the sand-bars, about low- water mark. They generally lived but one year, being killed by the winter. 

In 1865 I commenced gathering the young oysters early in the fall, and planting them from two to four feet deep, at low water. I 
found that they did well, growing rapidly, and having an excellent flavor. In 1867 I canied some to the Parker House, Boston, and the 
proprietors pronounced them as fine oysters as they had ever seen, and engaged all I had to sell; since which time I have furnished 
Wareham oysters to the Parker House whenever they have been in suitable condition for their trade. I took care to secure and preserve 
the spawn, placing shells and brush wherever I thought it likely to catch, and by 1869 had several thousand bushels growing finely. 
On the 8th of September of that year, we had a severe southeasterly gale, which washed the sand from the shores and bars, covering the 
oysters and destroying the greater portion of them. The water that was driven into our bay by that gale was uucommonly salt and 
bitter, killing nearly all vegetation, even large trees, as far as it reached, and injured many wells. The oysters were seriously hurt 
by it, and the next year were poor and very salt, hardly marketable. They did not fully recover from its etfects until 187-i. Many other 
persons had by this time procured licenses, and commenced planting, getting their seed mostly from the Waukinco river and the shores 
of Onset bay. Several cargoes of large Virginia oysters were planted in the spring, and taken up and sold in the fall, but this did not 
prove profitable. Spawn now began to catch in various parts of Onset bay, in water from 10 to 12 feet deep at low water; I think this 
came from the Virginia oysters; none has caught there since ; they have all been taken up. In one year I think at least 20,000 bushels 
of seed, about one inch in diameter, were taken from Onset bay and planted elsewhere, some going to Providence river, and some to various 
parts of Cape Cod. Nearly all the available shores of Wareham were by this time granted to ditferent persons for oyster-planting. 
Seed-oysters at this time, from Onset bay, sold readily at from 50 ceftts to 75 cents per bushel, from the boats, and large oysters brought 
from |5 to $9 per barrel, delivered at the railroad station. The business of growing oysters was profitable. The only limit seemed to be 
in the size of the individual grants and the amount of capital invested. The grants were too small to do a large business, and no great 
amount of money was invested in it. 

In 1875 Wareham oysters were poor, hardly marketable, and during the winter many died ; the next two years they were good, and 
mine brought $7 50 per barrel ; in 1878 and 1879 they were very poor, and unsalable except to peddlers, at a low price. Last winter at 
least one-half of our large oysters died. No seed of any consequence has been caught in Onset bay the past three years. I have tried to 
find out why our oysters were so poor some years and good others, and my observations lead me to the following conclusions: Onset bay 
has no fresh-water streams discharging into it other than small brooks, but on its shores are innumerable springs of fresh water, exuding 
almost everywhere between high- and low-water mark. Near where the springs flow copiously, the oysters are the best. These springs 
derive their supply from the rain that falls on the great wooded territory in Wareham and Plymouth, called "Plymouth woods ". In 1875 
the springs were very low. The previous winter had been very cold, tbe ground freezing to a great depth, and the woods did not thaw 
out until the last of May. All the water that fell, therefore, ran off the surface, and did not penetrate the ground to supply the springs. 
The next winter was warmer, more rain fell, the springs filled, and oysters improved. Then occurred the great fires, destroying all 
vegetation on thousands of acres of Plymouth woods, and leaving a sandy barren, where the rain that fell evaporated rapidly ; the ponds 
in the woods shrank to a smaller compass than was ever known before, the swamps dried up, springs failed, many wells gave out entirely, 
and the streams that furnish the water-power of Wareham were, and still are, lower than ever before, and oysters are poorer. I am confident 
that, for the production of good oysters in this vicinity, a certain uniform supply of fresh water is required, springing directly from the 
ground on which they are planted. It will not do to have the water vary in saltness ; if it does, though the shell may grow rapidly, the 
meat is watery and flavorless. Oysters are seldom of good quality in brackish water, yet when taken from salt water and placed for a 
short time in freshwater, they will grow plump, and improve, if not left too long. 

Oysters always feed on the flood-tide. Then the water seems cloudy, while on the ebb it is clear. I have often observed, that as soon 
as the tide began to flow the oysters wouli slightly open their shells, the feathery edge of the mollusk could be seen protruding and iu 
motion, apparently feeding. In raking oysters on the flood-tide they often catch on the teeth of the rake ; I never knew this to occur on 
the ebb. Oysters throw off their spawn at the commencement of the flood-tide, hence it generally catches near low-water mark, and 
up stream from the spawning-bed, except in rivers where there is always a downward flow. 

Their season for spawning here varies from the 1st of July to the 1st of September, according to the condition of the oyster and the 
temperature of the water; the spawn in favorable situations grows rapidly. I have known a boat, with a perfectly clean bottom, anchored 
over an oyster-bed, to have its bottom completely covered with oysters of over an inch in diameter in two weeks' time. 


Though seed tateu from the natural beds in our rivers does ■well when planted in other localities, the restrietions upon taking them 
placed by the town-authorities, and 10 cents per bushel to be paid the town, prevent their being used to any great extent. No Virginia 
oysters have been i)lauted here for several years past, -with the exception of a small cargo I brought from there last year, hoping to obtain 
spawn from them in course of time ; they seem to be doing well ; no oysters to any extent are opened for sale. Those sent to Boston last 
year brought |5 per barrel at the railroad station. The greater quantity of oysters sold last year were to peddlers, at $1 per bushel on the 
shore, who disposed of them in the adjacent towns. From the best information I can get, I think about 7,000 bushels were marketed from 
this town the past year, paying to the producers about $10,000. Very little money is paid out for labor ; planters do their own work, 
and what help is needed can be got for 15 cents per hour. The prospect for much business next year does not look encouraging. No seed, 
to any great extent, has been planted for the past two years. I have quite a large quantity growing, but can form no correct estimate of 
how many. I shall continue planting the ensuing year, if I can procure seed will not cost over iJ5 cents per bushel, planted. I expect 
to bring some young oysters from the Great Wicomico river, Virginia, to plant here. I think they will do well if caught in shoal-water, 
and are young and thrifty. I have oysters planted there, but cannot yet tell how successful they will prove. 

The greatest drawback to complete success of the business here, has been the lack of uniformity in quality from year to year. Much 
of the ground upon which our oysters are planted has too little water upon it at low tide ; the oysters freeze in the winter, or are killed 
by the ice resting upon them. It is also impossible to catch them for market just when they bring the best prices. The most destructive 
enemy to our oyster-beds is a small mollusk, here called the " borer " or " white snail" ; it drills a small hole through the shell directly 
over the "eye" of tho oyster, causing its death. Some beds, particularly where the bottom is hard, are completely destroyed by them. 
The periwinkle also is very destructive to large oysters ; one will destroy at least a bushel in a season. There are but few starfishes. 
Kespectfully yours, 


Oyster-beds in Sippecan hakboe, Wing's cove, and Weeweantit river. — Southwesterly from Wareham 
the head of Buzzard's bay contains several oyster-localities of varying importance. They are : The Weeweantit 
river, for a mile or so in the neighborhood of the highway bridge; Wing's cove, and the Blankinship cove of 
Sippecan harbor, in the town of Marion. 

In the Weeweantit natural beds of very good oysters have existed for a long time, and a few years ago a 
large yield was obtained from them every year by Mr. Eobinson and others. Latterly, however, the quantity 
has decreased, and the beds have been raked almost whoUy for the sake of seed. There are grants here, but no 
improvement, as yet, of any consequence. 

In Sii)pecan harbor (the harbor of Marion) it is said that no oysters were known until about fifteen years ago 
(1864), wlum the shore of Ram island, on the eastern side of the harbor, near the entrance, was found strewn with 
young oysters, and the next year it was ascertained that these had lived and were growing. The whole cove rapidly 
filled, and at once began to be taken by the inhabitants in large quantities. 

Oyster-culture in Sojierset. — Some gentlemen, in 1875, got permission of the town to plant oysters on 
the bar at the entrance of the harbor, and brought a large quantity of seed -oysters from Somerset, Massachusetts, 
to lay down there. Taking the hint, the town surveyed a fringe of grants aronnd the whole harbor, which were 
rapidlj' secured by the citizens for purposes of culture. The first design was that all owning grants should seed 
them from abroad, leaving the natural beds in Blankinship cove and all the channels as public domain. But this 
was done to a very small extent, the natural beds being raked and dredged, instead, for oysters to be placed upon 
the grants, until it seemed likely that no mollusks at all would be left upon the beds. Legislative measures, both 
of state and town, were brought forward for oyster-protection, but with little avail, as restrictive measures had 
small support from public opinion, and now there is little attempt to restrain any one fishing to any extent. It is 
reported by some, as a consequence, that few oysters are left, while others say that there are as many oysters 
there now as ever. Meanwhile, those who had planted were not encouraged. The best grants lay in favorable 
spots, where the oysters had shallow water, a hard bottom, and quick tide, only lacking fresh water. One gentleman 
has planted about twelve thousand bushels, and has put down six to eight thousand empty shells, hoping to catch 
spawn ; but since these were put down there has been no year in which the spawn was plenty at Marion. (The last 
good year for spawn in Wareham was 1877, in Somerset, 1878.) Both of these investments haA^e proved to be 
losing ones. The oysters brought here from Somerset have grown pretty well in shell, but in meat are lean and 
watery. Last August those of marketable size produced less than two solid quarts to the bushel. This fall (1879) 
there has been an improvement, but a bushel does not ''open" more than three quarts. These facts are true, as a 
rule, over the whole extent of the harbor, and in every instance the owners consider that they have lost money on 
their investment, and that it is probable that no great success can be looked for in raising oysters at Marion, for 
unexplained reasons. Even when they succeed in getting a fair quantity of oysters, they are not as hard and plump 
as they ought to be, and will not sell in Boston market at prices which will repay the expense of their cultivation. 
Among special discouragements may be mentioned the burying of two thousand bushels in one bed, on the outside 
of Earn island bar, by a single gale during the winter of 1878, and the sudden death of several thousand bushels up 
the harbor through anchor-frost. As a consequence, a large portion of the oysters which have been planted here 
from Somerset have been taken up and sent to Providence river, where they have been rebedded with great success. 
It may be that this will afford an opportunity for business, although planting will not succeed well. The seed can be 
bought in Somerset and laid down here for about 35 cents a bushel. Two years later it can be sold to Providence 
dealers for 75 cents. During these same years the natural beds near Ram island have flourished tolerably well, 
although the large tracts of shells about the harbor have caught no spawn. They have not opened as much nor 
of as good quality, however, as formerly ; but there are great differences in the oysters of even this limited area. 


A bed at Eam's island, on the sand, in three to five feet of water, "opened handsome," while only a few yards away 
oysters on a muddy bottom were of poor quality and size. 

There have been about $17,000 invested in oyster-culture in this town, but I believe the whole matter could be 
bought now for $10,000. Perhaps 5,000 bushels, aU told, have been disposed of annually for the last three or four 
years, at $1 a bushel or gallon. 

Nattjeal beds in Sandwich. — Crossing over now to the eastern head of the bay (since there is nothing to 
be noticed south of Marion on the west, except a little later at New Bedford), I have to report an extensive industry. 
The Cohasset river divides the town of Wareham from the adjacent township of Sandwich, its neighbor on the 
south and east. Flowing into Buzzard's bay from this Sandwich side are several rivers, and the shore is indented 
with numerous inlets and shallow ponds. Nearly all of these inlets were found by the earliest colonists occui)ied by 
beds of natural oysters, and most of these beds are still living and supplying seed for cultivation. That the Indians 
used the oysters extensively is shown, not only by tradition and analogy, but by abundant traces of former feasts in 
the shape of shell-heaps. Some account of the oysters of this region more recently, is accessible in a letter from 
Dr. J. B. Forsyth, wiitten in 1840, to Dr. A. A. Gould, and printed in the first edition of the latter's Invertebrates 
of Massachusetts. Dr. Forsyth says that the aged men of the vicinity assured him that oysters had never been 
brought there from abroad up to that time (1840) ; that they grew so abundantly everywhere along the Sandwich 
shores " that at low water you could at almost any point procure a bucketfnll of them from the rocks". Dr. Forsyth 
also mentions Wareham as an oyster-locality. There was then a statute prohibiting a man from taking more than 
two bushels at one time for his own use, and forbidding their being carried out of town. " The oysters," says the 
writer, " are generally collected by a few men, who bring them to the village and dispose of them at 50 cents a bushel 
for their trouble; and by selling half a bushel or a bushel to an individual the spirit of the statute is not violated. 
This may be repeated every day, until the desired sup])ly is laid in. "VYhen placed in the cellar and fed fiom time to 
time with a little meal and water, they will sometimes keep good for months." 

Culture and legislation on Monument river. — Buzzard's bay is the new name for the railway station 
on the Old Colony line, known to all the people about there as Cohasset Narrows, because it is upon the narrowest 
part of the neck of the iieninsula of Cape Cod. The river flowing down past Buzzard's bay station is the Monument, 
a clear, broad stream, up and down which the tide rushes with great force. " Wild" native oysters inhabited this 
stream, but had been pretty nearly exhausted by constant raking, when the attention of the town-authoi'ities of 
Sandwich was called to the matter, a few years ago. They caused a survey of this and the various other oyster- waters 
of the township, and divided them oft' into " grants " of different sizes, according to the character of the bottom, but 
none less than about an acre and a half in extent. These grants could be taken by any citizen of the town, under 
certain conditions, upon the jiayment of $2 50. If not improved within a year they reverted to the town. Each 
grant, as soon as taken, and no matter what the value of the stock upora it, was taxed at a valuation of $50. 

The special state laws passed for the benefit of this new industry, were substantially as follows : 

March 26, 1834. Section 1. If any person sball hereafter take any oysters or other shellfish from their beds, or destroy them 
therein, in the town of Sandwich, except as is hereinafter provided, he shall forfeit for every bushel of oysters so taken or destroyed, the 
sum of iive dollars, and for every bushel of other shellfish so taken or destroyed, the sum of three dollars: Provided, however, That the 
selectmen of said town may give permits in writing to any inhabitant to take shellfish at such times and for such uses as they shall think 
reasonable and express in such permits, not exceeiling two bushels for one family : Provided, further, That any inhabitant of said town 
may, without such permit, take one bushel of oysters or other shellfish per week from their beds in said town, for the use of his or her 
family, from September 1 to June 1, annually. 

Sec. 2. If any boat, wagon, sleigh, or other vehicle, shall be found within the limits of said town with any oysters or other shellfish 
on board, taken in said town contrary to the provisions of this act, any inhabitant may seize and detaiu the same, not exceeding forty- 
eight hours, in order that the same, if need bo, may be attached by due process of law to answer the said fines and forfeitures, with costs 
of suit : Provided, hou-ever, That as soon as the owner or master of any such vessel, boat or craft, cart, wagon, sleigh, or other vehicle, shall 
pay said fines and forfeitures without suit to the treasurer of said town, such vehicle shall be discharged, with the effects therein. 

Sec. 3. If any person or persons, residing in Sandwich, shall assist any person belonging to any other town, in t.akiug any of the fish 
aforesaid, or shall supply them therewith, he shall forfeit for every bushel of oysters so taken five dollars, and for every bushel of other 
shellfish three dollars, and the purchaser or purchasers, knowing them to be unlawfully taken, shall be subject to the like forfeitures. 

Sec. 4. All persons not otherwise disqualified shall be competent witnesses in any prosecution upon this act. 

Sec. 5. All the forfeitures mentioned in this act, not herein otherwise appropriated, shall enure, one half to said town, and the 
other half to the person or persons giving information, to be recovered by the treasurer of said town in an action of debt, before any 
justice of the peace for said county of Barnstable, or any court proper to try the same. 

May 15, 18C7. Section 1. Whoever takes any tiysters from Monument river. Sandwich, previous to October 1, 18G8, shall forfeit 
five dollars for each bu.shol so taken. 

Sec. 2. The inhabitants of the town of Sandwich, at a legal meeting held for the puri^ose, may make regulations concerning the 
taking of oysters in said river after said first day of October; and whoever takes any oysters from said river contrary to the regulations 
so made, shall be subject to the same penalties as are provided, in the preceding section.* 

* On Februarj- 26, 1873, a precisely similar regulation was made for Barlow river, Sandwich, to be in efl'ect subsequent to October 1, 


Votes of Town, March 3, 1879. 

Voted, That the Monument ami Barlow rivers bo closed for catching oysters from tlie first day of May nest, until the first day of 

October following. 

Voted That the ren-ulations concerning tlie taking of oysters from said first day of October until the next annual meeting, shall bo 
the same as voted at a meeting adjourned from the anmial meeting in M.areh, 1878, to the fifth day of November in said year, which is as 
follows: Any inhabitant may take one bushel of oysters iu each week, and no more, the same to be taken under the supervision of the 
fish-committee of the town, who are directed to itrosecute all ijcrsous violating the regulations now voted. That Saturday iu each week 
shall be the catching day. 

Voted, That the town sustain the officers chosen Iu all legal action pertaining to their office. 

Voted, That the town allow its inhabitants to take all the oysters they can with suitable instruments, such as drags, tongs, and rakes, 
wherever they can find them, except on private grauts and iu Monument and Barlow rivers. 

Voted, That any person entitled to one bushel of oysters per week under the reguUations for the Monument and Barlow rivers, uuiy, by 
an order, empower .another person to take said bushel of oysters for his or her family use. 

The people were quick to take advantage of these legal permits, and it was not long before nearly all space of 
value was appropriated, and wild speculation began; but it is only within the last three or four years that much 
business has been done, or systematic efforts at transplanting and stocking have been introduced. There are now 
about 50 owners on Monument river, Cohasset river, and in Little bay, and a careful estimate of money invested 
gives $30,000 as the probable value of grants, stock on baud (November, 1879), and appurtenances. Many of the 
grants are as yet very slightly stocked with oysters. 

The Monument river oysters were famous in olden times for their superior quality and size. "They opened 
well," the oystermen said ; that is, there was a large proportion of meat to the shell, which was thin, brittle, and 
much scalloped. The first idea was simply to hold, as proprietors, the seed which were caught upon the grants from 
the natural bed at the mouth of the river ; and, to facilitate this ciitching, more or less dead shells have been thrown 
down. But the more enterprising planters have laid down great deposits of seed-oysters, purchased chiedy iu 
Wareham, and these are just now beginning to produce their legitimate returns, having grown to a marketable 
size. Some fresh seed is put down every year, but iu addition to this, it is expected that large accessions will be 
made by spawn caught from the natural bed and from the spawning of the planted oysters. Since 1874, however, 
very little spawn has been caught. In that year a vast quantity appeared,, but arrangements were not made 
to avail themselves of it. ^ 

The amount of seed placed upon a grant varies with the pocket and theory of the owner, from 100 to 500 bushels 
on an acre; perhaps 200 bushels would be an average of actual planting. The seed from one to two years old is 
used and preferred. It is generally planted in the spring, when it can be bought for from 30 to 35 cents a bushel; 
but it is thought much better to plant it in the fall, although then from GO to 80 cents is asked for the seed. It 
costs about 10 cents a bushel to throw down. The best bottom (and that which is found everywhere here) is hard 
sand, a little soft on top. The average depth of water on the beds is 3 feet ; but some stock is planted where it is 
exposed or just covered at ebb-tide, the objection to this being the danger of damage from drifting ice, for the 
mere resting of the ice on the oysters is not usually harmful, provided they lie flat on the sand. The calculated cost 
of beginning business along this river now, would be about as follows: 

Present cost of good ground (1 grant) v^^ 

Seeding, 300 bushels at 50 cents 150 

Sail-boat and row-boat 55 

Beach, shanty, and furniture 40 

Eake, tongs, shovels, and tools - 10 

lucidentals - --■ ''>* 

Total 360 

One who is really going into the matter hopefully, must expect about this outlay before he considers his grant 
in condition to yield. If he puts down shells for the spawn to catch upon, as he probably will, it will cost him 
about 10 cents a bushel. 

Formerly Virginia oysters were planted and bedded here, but did not do well. The prices received for these 
oysters, which are all picked over and shipped to Boston iu good shape, vary from $3 50 to $6 a barrel. In 1878, 
the exports from the Buzzard's Bay station by rail were 138 barrels. Up to November 1, 1879, 240 barrels were 
sent, making 300 barrels a probable total for that year. Besides this, in 1879, much opening was done by the 
oystermen to supply the neighborhood market, and about 1,000 gallons of opened oysters were carried by express 
companies, in small jiackages. 

Oyster-cultuke in Eed Brook harbor (Pocasset). — Another oyster-locality iu the town of Sandwich, 
is Eed Brook harbor, six miles south of Monument river. The railway station is Pocasset, on the Wood's IIoll 
branch of the Old Colony line. This harbor is an indentation of Buzzard's bay, about one and a half miles long by 
one-third of a mile wide, and it is separated from the outer bay by an island. A branch of the harbor, also, runs 
up to a landing known as Barlowtown. The name Eed Brook harbor is derived from a little stream which flows 
into it, the bottom of which is tinged with iron rust; but this brook does not freshen the water to any considerable 


extent. The bottom of the main part of the harbor is hard sand, and the water is nowhere more than 8 feet deep 
at low tide. In some portions rocks and eel-grass exist. 

On the southern shore of this harbor, about a mile from its head, exists a living bed of natural oysters, some 
seven acres in extent, under protection of the town for public benefit. The oysters growing upon it are reported to be 
large, but not of extraordinary size, scalloped and roundish, differing in no respect from aged oysters grown after 
transplanting to another part of the bay. Excepting this natural bed, the whole harbor has been surveyed and 
divided into grants; all those good for anything have been taken up, and must now be bought at an advanced price, 
if any one desires to possess them. The largest owner is a Boston firm, reputed to have 75 acres, but beside it are 
a score of other proprietors, inhabitants of the shores. It is safe to say that $3,500 would buy out all the home 
interests in the whole tract, and $15,000 cover the total investment up to January 1, 1880. There is a spirit of 
progress here, however, which will lead to a great increase in the value of the property within the next few years. 
During 1878, for example, there were shipped from Pocasset station only 85 barrels; in 1879, 500 barrels. 

I spent some hours on these giounds with Mr. Edward Eobinson, who exerted himself to make my visit 
instructive. He thought that one-half of the whole water-area was suitable for oyster-cultivation, and all of this 
is now appropriated, though only a portion has yet been stocked. The seed is mainly derived from the native bed 
in the harbor and from the shores where the native spawn has "set", and is planted in the spring and fall. The 
only outside seed brought in thus far is 300 bushels from the Weeweantit river, across the bay; and 1,000 bushels 
from Somerset. The latter did not seem to do well. A long, sandy point runs out into the harbor here, which 
ebbs dry at low tide. This does not come into any grant, therefore, and hence is public ground for the gathering of 
seed. I saw upon the pebbly beach, in places, how abundantly this was to be had. Young oysters, at this season, 
from the size of a dime to that of a dollar, were strewed between tide-marks so thicklj- that you could hardly avoid 
stepping upon them, and they would survive the winter well in this exposure. These are gathered by everybody 
who wishes and placed upon their grants. In addition to this, many thousands of bushels of old shells have been 
laid down, the proper time to do this work being early in July, in order to have their surfaces clear and ready to 
catch the spawn which begins to appear about that time. In 1876, when there was the last good quantity of spawn 
emitted, the shells had been put down in May, and by July were so slimy that the spawn did not set upon them. 
They learned wisdom by that, but no good year for spawn has occurred since. The seed is planted in varying 
quantity, but Mr. Eobinson said he should put it down shoulder to slioulder, so as to pave the whole bottom, if he 
had enough. I saw tracts where the growing oysters lay so thick as to conceal the sand, and you could gather a 
bushel from a square yard of bottom. The natives consider the seed here better than that at Monument river, for 
it is rounder and less distorted. When the oysters are three to four years old, and ready for market, Mr. Eobinson 
takes them up and lays them u^ion a wooden floor near his packing-shanty, in water almost wholly fresh, which 
takes away the very saline flavor, fills them up in size, and makes them plump and hard. It is known as the 
"fattening" process, after which they are ready for shipment. Bought from the boats, a dollar a bushel is paid for 
these oysters, but the freight to Boston and the barreling make them cost about $1 30 a bushel to the dealer. 

Here, as at Monument river, fishing is habitually done through the ice in winter. The method is to cut a large 
hole and use tongs. The oystermen do not complain of it as especially cold or unpleasant work. In order to keep 
the oysters from freezing, they dip the bag which they intend to put them in when caught, in water, and hold it 
upright until it freezes stiff. It thus stands conveniently open, like a barrel, and no wind can blow through its sides 
to the detriment of the contents. 

Cataitmet and Falmouth.— Below Eed Brook harbor are Cataumet harbor. Currant river. Wild harbor, and 
Squeateague pond. All of these are inhabited by beds of native oysters, and hence were granted in lots by the 
town (Sandwich) under the usual regulations. They differ in no important respect from the Eed Brook region, are 
all of small extent, and the whole money-investment, all together, will not exceed $500. 

At East Falmouth there is a small business, the facts concerning which were kindlj' communicated to me in a 
letter from Mr. Frank C. Davis, which I take pleasure in transcribing : 

East Fai-mouth, Mass., Xoveml>er20, 1879. 
Dear Sir: There are no natural oyster-beds in our locality, nor have there been within my recollection, nor is there any trace, so far as I 
am aware, of their existence in the past. Oysters are cultivated on a small scale here, but there is not room for a very extensive business. 
We liave a few acres of tide-flats, but the oyster-bottom extends chiefly along the shore, varying from six feet to one rod in width. This 
bottom is composed of sand and gravel. Out.side of this you have dead black and blue mud, where nothing will live except eels. 

I shotild judge there were 1,000 bushels of seed planted per annum, and about the same amount of oysters sold each year. The seed 
is obtained in Buzzard's bay, and costs from ,$3,5 to $85 per 100 bushels. 

The ground is granted by the town of Falmouth to the tax-payers of said town, and all of it is taken up. The oysters grow well 
here, but are liable to die. Our oysters bring from |3 to $5 per barrel ; very choice, |t>. 


Few Bedford and ticinity.— A few words remain to be said about New Bedford and vicinity. The 
Acushuet river, just above New Bedford, has been found wanting in the qualities necessary to make it good 
planting ground for oysters. The experiment has been tried, but has failed. No cultivation exists there, therefore. 

The principal dealers in the town buy yearly a superior stock of oysters in the Chesapeake bay, bringing one 


cargo of 3,500 bushels for bedding, and another cargo for ■winter use ; the schooner Hastings, of nearly 100 tons 
burthen, is the vessel used at present. These oysters cost 65 cents when laid down, but gi'ow very little on these 
beds, since there is no fresh water to start them. In addition to this, one firm furnishes ojsters from Providence 
river, Wareham, and elsewhere. The rest of the town, as calculated by them, use about liOO bushels and 100 gallons 
a week for 5 months. This makes New Bedford's estimated consumption, annually, about 13,000 bushels. 

Five men are employed six months, as oiieners, at 17 cents a gallon. 

Just west of ]S^ew Bedford is a little stream and inlet, known as Westport river. This was the locality of an 
ancient bed of native oysters, which has now nearly disappeared through too great raking. They are said to be 
very large and of good quality, but not more than 50 bushels a year can now be caught throughout the whole three 
miles irom the "Point" up to the bridge, which sell at $1 50 to $2 a bushel in jS^ew Bedford. There is reputed to 
be good planting ground near the bridge. 

A few miles west of Westport is the Dartmouth river, where, it is said, an oyster-bed has recently formed, but, 
as yet^is of little account. The bottom there, however, is regarded as very suitable for planting upon. Fifty 
bushels a year would cover the whole s-npply fi'om here. 

Planting in Cotuit and Waquoit. — At Cotuit and Waquoit are considerable planting interests, under 
similar regulations to those existing on the eastern shore of Buzzard's bay. From West Barnstable station, enough 
oysters were sent to Boston by rail, combined with what went elsewhere by water, to make the production of Cotuit 
amount to about 5,000 bushels annually; these oysters have a high reputation in Boston. Waquoit will produce half 
as much more, chietiy from Wareham seed. Both localities will give a census of 40 planters, and an investment of 
$40,000. There is a considerable fleet of sail-boats here. 

FoEiiER OCCURRENCE OF OYSTERS IN Martha's Yineyabd. — In rcspcct to Martha's Vineyard, only a 
paragraph remains to be said, quoted from a description of the island in the Massachusetts Historical Collections, 
second series, 1807, page 58 : 

The oyster is found in Newtown pond, and in two otlier ponds on tlie south shore, one of which is in Edgartown, and the other in 
Tisbury. It is fresh to the taste ; but it is improved in its relish and rendered fatter, by digging a canal through the beach, and letting the 
salt water iiow into the fresh-water ponds. As the southerly wind soon fills up the canal, the digging must be renewed four or five times 
in a year. 

Statistical recapitulation. Buzzard's bay and Vineyard sound: 

Number of planters and shippers 150 

Extent of ground cultiv.ated acres.. 500 

Number of families supported 400 

Number of vessels and sail-boats engaged 100 

Value of same |;20, 000 

Annual sales of — 

I. Native oysters bushels.. 19,000 

Value of same |;25, 000 

II. Chesapeake "plants" bushels.. 7,000 

Value of same |;t), 000 

Total value of oysters sold annually $31,000 


Condensed view of laws as ajviended jn 1878. — The oyster-laws of Massachusetts, chapter 83, as amended 
in 1878, are condensed as follows: 

Section 11. Whoever tates oysters from their beds, destroys them, or willfully obstructs their growth, etc., forfeits $2 for every 
bushel, including shells. [This last phrase was made necessary by the fact that, in colonial times, when the oyster first became the subject 
of legal restriction, the penalty was evaded by the culprit's claiming that the shells were not to be measured against him — only the oyster 
meats. — E. I.] 

Sec. 12. The mayor and aldermen, or the selectmen, of any city and town may give permits to any person to take a stated quantity 
of oysters; and every inhabitant may, without permit, take oysters, for family use, from September 1 to June. 

.Sec. 13. Makes the same regulation in respect to other shellfish. 

Sec. 14. Any boat, not owned in the place, and found with oysters on board, not taken under a permit or license, may be seized and 
detained by any inhabitant for not more than 4d houis, pending process of law. 

Sec. 15. Native Indians are allowed to dig for all kinds of shellfish for home use ; and fishermen may take bait, not exceeding 
seven bushels at once. 

Sec 1(5. The mayor and aldermen or selectmen of any city or town may * " * grant a license, for a term not exceeding twenty years, 
to any inhabitant thereof, to iilant, grow, and dig oysters, .at .all times of the year, upon and in any flats and creeks therein, at any place 
where there is no natural oyster-bed ; not, however, impairing the private rights of any person, nor materially obstructing the navigable 
waters of any creek or bay. But no person shall take any oysters from any flats or creeks for which a license has been granted, * * * 
between sunset and sunrise, on penalty of forfeiture of license and the oysters on his beds. 

Sec. 17. Such license shall describe the metes and bounds, shall be recorded, and shall cost the applicant $2 50. 

Skc. 18. The person so licensed, his heirs and assigns, shall, for the purposes aforesaid, have exclusive use of the flats and creeks 
described in the license during the time therein specified ; and any person who, without consent of the owner, removes oysters from 
licensed ground incurs a fine of §100, or less, or imprisonment from thirty days to six months, or both. 


Special laws relating to Cape Cod were passed in 1S70, and remain in force, to the following effect : 

Section I. No person not an iubabitant of tlie town of Wellfleet shall take any clams, quahatigs, oysters, or other shellfish within the 
waters of said town, without first getting a permit from the selectmen, nor shall any person being an inhabitant of said town take any 
of said fish for bait, at any time, exceeding three bushels, including their shells, or for the purpose of selling the same, without a permit 
from the selectmen of said Wellfleet, who nuiy grant the same for such sum to be paid to the use of the town as they shall deem proper; 
but the inhabitauts of said town may take said fish for family use without such permit. 

Sec. II. Whoever takes any shellfish from within the waters of said WellJieet in violation of the provisions of this act, shall, foi 
every offense, pay a fine of not less than five or more than ten dollars and costs of prosecution, and one dollar for every bushel of shell- 
fish so taken; said fine and forfeiture imposed under this act to be recovered by indictment or information before a trial justice in the 
county of Barnstable. 



Peculiarities of the Somerset native stock.— A discussion of this small district forms a natural division 
of the subject, since the Taunton river beds are isolated, and lying between Narraganset bay and the Cape Cod 
district, furnish seed for both. The river itself flows into Narraganset bay, and the region immediately about its 
mouth is included. 

There lies in the Taunton river, at Dightou, a large rock, well known to archaeologists, on account of some 
inscriptions which it bears ; these, though untranslated, are supposed to be the work of Norse voyagers who early 
visited these waters. The foundation for this supposition is very fully and attractively stated in Thoreau's Cajte 
Cod, to which the reader is referred. These earliest comers were pleased to find shellfish abundant in the region, 
and the English settlers, three or four centuries later, record their thankfulness on similar grounds. From time 
immemorial, then, oysters have been natives of this district, and no such mistake as has been made north of Caiie 
Cod could ever be put forward to deny that they are here indigenous. 

Legislation and license. — It was long ago recognized that the Taunton river was a valuable oyster- 
property, and legal measures were early adopted looking toward its preservation. The present plan of operations 
came into effect about thirty years ago, and though differing slightly in the various towns bordering the river, 
consists, in general, of the leasing of the ground for raking and planting purposes, during a term of years, at a fixed 
rental. Most of the towns do this under the general law of the state, already explained in the chapter on the south 
coast of Massachusetts bay district (C); but Somerset had a special act in her favor, passed by the legislature in 
1847, which reads as follows : 

Section 1. The town of Somerset shall have the exclusive control of the oyster-fishery in that part of Taunton river within the limits 
of said town, and may sell at public or private s.ale * * * the right or privilege of taking oysters * " * for a term of not less than three 
nor more than ten years at any one term ; and all money arising from such sale or sales shall be i>aid unto the treasurer of said town, for 
its use, etc. (Chapter 44.) 

Beyond this, every householder has the right to take three bushels each month for family use. 

The privilege of this town now rents for $800 a year, and is owned for five years by the Somerset Oyster 
Company, composed of citizens of the town. 

In Fall Eiver, the lease is held by a firm from Wellfleet, Massachusetts, at .fGOO a year. 

In Freetown, the holder of the lease is a Providence man, who pays about $1,000 annually for the privilege. 

The lessee of the privileges of Dighton, also, is a citizen of Providence, at a cost of $475 a year. 

Berkeley rents its oyster-banks to a Somerset company at $1,300 a year, for a long term. 

Assonet is leased for ten years, with Providence capital, at $1,225 a year. 

The total income, therefore, derived by the towns along the bank of this small river, only a dozen miles long, 
is $5,400. This is wholly for the privilege of raking the bottom for seed, besides which the towns reserve the right 
of each citizen to take such oysters from the river as he needs "for family use''. I know no other district in the 
United States which is made to serve the public treasury so well. 

In respect to this matter of leases, however, it may be said, that it was evidently the intention of the makers of 
the law to parcel out the privilege among many persons; but the shape of the business has changed, capital has 
overcome weak opposition, where it existed, and where there was a score of owners of the waterfront twenty-five 
years ago, there is now only one. It is probably to the general advantage, however, in this case, that the business 
should be thus centralized. 

Somerset oysters: The history of their deterioration. — The oysters from all parts of Taunton river 
(the producing extent is about 12 miles lopg) are known as "Somersets". Formerly they were considered extremely 
good eating, and grew to a large size. Within the last twenty-five years, however, they have assumed a green 
api)earance and lost quality. It is popularly asserted, locally, that this is owing to the influence of the iini)urities 
■discharged by the copper works, by the rolling-mills, and by the printworks, which are situated some mUes above 
the oyster beds. But this has been denied, on the ground that not enough of the mineral matter thus thrown into 


the current could get down there to affect the oysters so seriously, and also on the better ground, that chemical 
analyses fail to show the presence of anything to account for the greenish stain, which is precisely that so highly 
esteemed a few years ago in the French oysters of Marennes, and other districts. I was assured that this greenness 
varied iu different parts of the river, and with different seasons, and that if auy oysters happened to have grown 
high up on the bridge-piers, or elsewhere off the bottom, they were not green at all. Just how deleterious to health 
these green Somerset oysters are, I could not learn satisfactorily. Nobody pretends that their effects are fatal, and 
some say they are as good as any other inferior oyster. The general opinion, however, is, that eating a dozen raw 
ones is certain to be followed by violent sickness at the stomach. No doubt prejudice has much to do with it, for 
there is no food which the imagination would more quickly influence the stomach to reject, than the soft, slippery, 
and somewhat insipid fresh-water oystex. The same green appearance occurs of late in the oysters of Seekonk 
river, to be spoken of later on ; and in both cases transplanting entirely removes the stain and elevates the quality, 
which is said to be slowly improving. In consequence of this stain, the eating of Somerset oysters, iu their natural 
state, has been nearly given up, and the whole trade of the river is devoted to the production and sale of seed. Of 
course no planting of any sort, beyond the occasional transference of "set" from one part of the river to another, 
has ever been undertaken. 

Culture of seed-oystees in Taunton river. — The number of young oysters born every fall in Taunton 
river varies, but there is never a year wholly without them. The season of 1877 was a good one, and about U'n 
j^ears previous, the autumn of "the great September gale", saw an extraordinary production, or "set", as the 
appearance of the young oysters is termed here. The rocks and gravel along both shores are covered to a greater 
or less extent, but in addition to this, every owner spreads down great quantities of clean shells every summer, in 
the hoi)e of catching spawn. Generally, they are successful, and sometimes extremely so. Some experiments have 
been tried with sunken brush; but though the spawn attached itself well enough, the currents and winds are so 
strong and uncertain as to drift it all away and lose it to its owner. Perhaps 25,000 or 30,000 bushels of shells are 
spread in this river annually. The favorites are scallop shells, because thej^ are thin and brittle, so that the young 
oysters anchored to them are easily broken apart or detached. Scallop shells are somewhat scarce, and 3,000 
bushels put down at Assonet in 1878, cost $300. The result, nevertheless, is often very gratii^ying. Mr. S. K. 
niggins told me, that from 500 bushels of shells placed near Fall Eiver, he took up the following year 3,500 
bushels of young oysters. The annual product, iu seed, of the different town-fronts along the river, is given 
approximately, as follows : 

Bushels. Bushels. Bushels. 

Berlieley 11,000 Somerset 6,000 Assonet 13,000 

Dighton 3,000 Freetown 10,000 l-'all River 8,000 

Totjil "Somerset seed" 51.000 

Putting an average value of 45 cents a bushel on this (the sales of the Somerset Oyster Company in 1879 
netted them 42 cents), gives the sum of $22,950 as the value of the yearly crop of Taunton river seed. Of this, 
$5,400 is paid as revenue to the towns, and the balance mainly to native assistants in dredging, tonging, and 
transportation. The river-towns may, therefore, be said to derive about $20,000 as the annual value of their fisheries 
to them, besides the oysters needed "for family use". This money is widely distributed. While the law permits 
the raking of the river during nine months of the year, it is nevertheless the fact, that the main part of the work 
must be done in a much shorter time. As soon as the weather permits, or about April 1, the proprietors put gangs 
of men at work, and keep at it until the end of May. The catch is nearly all contracted for before it is caught, and 
every one is straining to fill their orders at the promised time. The water is from three to twenty feet deep, and 
the tonging not very difficult. The tongs used do not work by the twisting of the grain of an oaken pivot, but ou 
a brass swivel-pivot, known as the "Somerset" tongs. All, however, do not approve of the invention, averring 
that it wears out the tongs. During the months of April and May, about 60 persons are employed in Somerset 
alone, and in other towns in jiroportion — perhaps 400 along the whole river — who, as a rule, live along the bank, and 
often own the boats they operate — if not owned, one is hii'ed from their employer at 25 cents a day. The catching is 
all done by the bushel. Now from 10 to 15 cents a bushel is given, according to the scarcity of the mollusks, and a 
smart man might make $2 a day, though the average will not exceed $1 50. Formerly wages were higher: and 
perhaps the lowering has induced that constant effort on the part of the catchers to cheat the buyers, through false 
measures, etc., which is so freely charged against them. 

The ground is cleaned up pretty thoroughly by the time the 1st of June is reached, and in the fall little raking 
is done, it being considered poor policy. A well-known lessee on the Freetown shore, however, thinking, at the 
expiration of his lease a few years ago, that he would be unable to renew it, resolved selfishly to dredge his whole 
land in the autumn, leaving as barren a ground as possible for his successor — a proceeding quite characteristic of 
the locality. He did so, but succeeded in renewing his lease, and his raking the ensuing spring rather 
ruefully, expecting to find little or nothing. To his astonishment, he picked off of an area that had usually yielded 
him 0,000 to 7,000 bushels, no less than 12,000! Hence, he concluded that the thorough scraping had done the 
bottom good, though where he got the spawn at that late day is a mystery. This small seed, less tUan a year old, 
and about the size of your thumb nail, is widely distributed, going to beds on Cape Cod, iu Buzzard's bay, along the 


southern shore, and in all parts of Narraganset. It is highly esteemed on account of its hardiness. Wonderful 
stoiies are told of the cold and heat, drought and exposure, water too salt and water too fresh, which it has survived 
and prospered under. There is no difficulty about selling to planters all that can be raised, and the present high 
prices are due to the rivalry which has been brought about between buyers. The vessels which come to carry it 
away are small sloops and schooners, of 30 or 40 tons, which carry from 300 to 1,000 bushels. JSTone, I think, is sent 
anywhere by rail. Starfishes, nowadays, are few in Taunton river; but the borers, TIrosalpinx cinereus, are growing 
more and more numerous and troublesome. 

Culture and protection in Swansea, Massachusetts. — After leaving Taunton river, therefore, pointing 
westward, the first point at which oysters of any commercial consequence are met with, is in Coles river, which 
flows into Mount Hope bay, almost on the boundary between Massachusetts and Ehode Island. It was known long 
ago that oysters had inhabited this stream, and also Lee's river, near by, and immense dead shells are occasionally 
brought to light, but it had almost been forgotten, until a few years ago, when there was suddenly discovered near 
the mouth of the inlet a large bank of living oysters of fine quality. Everybody at once rushed to rake them up, 
evading or discarding the special law enacted in 1867 for the protection of the oyster-beds in these very rivers, and 
which I condense herewith : 

Section 1. Defines the scope of the act — Cole's and Lee's rivers, town of Swansea. 

Sec. 2. Penalties — fine of $5 to |50. 

Sec. 3. Any householder, an inhabitant of Swansea, may take for family use two bushels a month ; but selectmen may give a written 
permit for a larger quantity. 

Sec. 4. The town of Swansea * * * shall have the exclusive right to and control of the residue of the oyster-fisheries in Cole's river 
and in Lee's river, within its limits, and the selectmen « » * shall have the right, fi-om time to time, to sell to any person, at public or 
private sale, for any term not exceeding five years, the privilege of taking oysters from their beds therein * * *, under such regulations as 
they may in writing permit and designate. But at any legal meeting, called for the puriiose, the town may, by vote, direct the limit and 
extent to which the selectmen shall thereafter exercise the powers herein conferred. 

Sec. 5. The town may recover treble damages against offenders under this act. 

Sec. 6. Any deputy-sheriff, constable or selectman may arrest and detain persons found offending. 

Sec. 7. Any boat or vehicle containing oysters from Cole's or Lee's river in violation of this act, may be seized awaiting regular 
process of law (described in the context). 

Sec 8. Preserves the right to grant licenses for oyster-cultiure, and also Indians' rights. 

The result of this onslaught was, that two or three seasons of it nearly extirpated the colony, and the few to be 
obtained now are only got by hard effort on the part of a few professional river-men, who peddle them in the 
neighborhood, or take them to Fall Eiver. 

The extensive banks and tide-flats of this river, however, have long abounded in young oysters, which were 
buried by the digging for clams, which is extensively carried on here, or frozen by the winter weather, so that few, 
if any, survived, and none to speak of were gathered. Lately a large gravel-bank has been thrown up by the 
changed currents against the pier of the railway-bridge, and the number of infant mollusks attached to the 
IJcbbles here became so great as to attract the attention of Providence oystermen, who have created a demand for 
this seed. It is therefore gathered and sold now, about 1,000 bushels, it is estimated, having been collected during 
1879. Tliis is hardy, of good shape, and produces a round and remarkably fine oyster. Some attempts have been 
made at Cole's river to plant and rear its own oysters, and the town granted areas for this purpose, but thej' have 
not been successful thus far. Litigation has resulted, in several cases, from a clashing of alleged rights, and 
anchor-frost and starfishes, or drifting sand, have done the rest. I fear it is not a favorable locality for this purjiose. 

Of Lee's river there is nothing to be said. 

Statistical recapitulation for Taunton and Cole's rivers: 

Number of planters (not counted elsewhere) 10 

Extent of producing area acres.. 13 

Number of men employed (a few days in spring) 400 

Value of shore property and ciiltch $5,000 

Number of boats employed 250 

Value of same $5,000 

Annual sales of native oysters bushels.. 52,000 

Value of same $23,000 



Origin and history of the oyster-law. — When the people of " The Colony of Ehode Island and the 
Providence Plantations" felt themselves sure of future stability, they applied to the king, Charles II, to grant 
them a charter, which he graciously did in the year 1683. This charter was a wonderful document for those days, 
because of the well-nigh perfect liberty it embraced, and its hospitality to every conscientious belief, whatever the 
name of the religious banner it rallied under. Among the pri\ileges and liberties it insisted upon was the right 


of free fishing in every shape. The relations of the fishermen to the owners of the shores were defined with great 
minuteness, and were calculated to make all the fish of the sea, and all the molluscous denizens of the muddy 
tide-flats, as available as possible to every citizen. Tliereafter they were jealously preserved for public benefit. 
In lS34-'35, for instance, the first session of the assembly at East Greenwich was distinguished by an act for the 
preservation of oysters, which the thoughtless inhabitants were burning in large quantities for lime; and, iu 
October, 17C6, an "act for the preservation of oysters" was passed, forbidding them to be taken by drags, or 
otherwise than by tongs, under a penalty of ten pounds. Parents and masters were held liable for the violation 
of this law by their children or servants, and the owners of boats engaged in evading it were subject to a double 
fine. When (and it was not many years ago) the state constitution was adopted, no clause was so scrupulously 
worded against possible evasion, as that which declared that in respect to the rights of fishing and of taking clams, 
etc., everything should remain precisely as decreed in the old charter. 

The oyster-law, therefore, is based upon the principle, that between high-water mark and the public highway of 
the ship-channel, the land and water are controlled by the state as public property, to be administered for the 
greatest good to the greatest number. Ehode Islanders are extremely tenacious of these shore- and water-rights, 
and there has been no little quarreling over some actions of the legislators and decisions of the courts with respect 
to this subject; but, upon the whole, there has been little alteration of the original law. I condense it below, 
including all of the emendations up to 1880 : 

Abstract of' the oyster-laws as ajiended up to 1880: 

GENERAL STATUTES. Chapter 1Z2.— Of the free and common fislieries. 

Section 1. Prohibits taking oysters from the "free and common fisheries ", or exposing for sale between May 15 and September 15; 
and north of Field's point, Providence river, between May 1 and November 1. 

Sec. 2. Prohibits one person taking more than 10 bushels of oysters a day; penalty, |20. 

Sec. 3. Refers to quahaugs and clams. 

Sec. 4. Forbids dredges "or any other method more destmctive to oyster-beds than the usual method of taking them by oyster- 
tougs"; penalty, forfeiture of boat and all apparatus, and a tine of $300 upon every person engaged. 

Sec. 5. Exempts " under-rakes " from the force of section 4. 

Sec. 6. Fines any person willfully breaking up, dumping upon, or otherwise damaging any free oyster-bed ; $500 for each offense. 

Sec. 7. Prohibits planting on any private bed oysters taken south of a liue from Hill's wharf to the commissioner's monument on the 
Seekonk shore (penalty, $20 for every bushel); "provided, however, that the planting upon private beds of young oysters found above 
low- water mark, or found adhering to the shells of oysters fit for market or present use, shall not be deemed a violation of this section." 

Sec. 8. Enjoins culling, and the restoring to the bed of the shells and all small oysters unfit for market. 

Sec 9. Forbids raking at night. 

Sec. 10. "No person not a citizen of this state shall be allowed to fish for oysters or other shellfish within the waters of this state." 

Sec 11. Gives the shellfish-commissioners the right to "buoy off", i. e., seclude any bed from being raked, when they think it is 
becoming exhausted, until it has again become sufficiently productive. They may also "buoy" any new beds discovered. 

Sec 12. Enjoins proper publication of the placing and removal of buoys. 

Sec 13. Prohibits the raking of "buoyed" beds or tamjiering with the buoys. 

Sec 14. The penalties for violation of sections 8, 9, 10, and 13 are : fine of $-iO for each offense, and forfeiture of boat and all apparatus. 

Sec 15. Persons convicted of a second offense against the oyster-laws forfeit their right to fish for three years thereafter. 

Sec. 16. Establishes Quicksand pond, in Little Comptou, Point Judith ponds, and all the Charlestown ponds, except Powaget, aa 

Sec 17. Enforces the regulation concerning close season (see section 1). 

Sec 18. Repeals all previous laws inconsistent with these amendments. 

Chapter 133. — Of private and several fisheries. 

Section 1. Provides for the election of three state commissioners of shellfisheries, by the legislature, who shall hold office for five 
years. [Previous to 1864 there had been one and sometimes two commissioners, serving without pay.] 

Sec. 2. These commissioners may lease, by public auction or otherwise, to any inhabitant of the state, any land "covered by tide- 
water at low tide and not within any harbor line, to be used as a private and several oyster-fishery for the planting and cultivation of 
oysters thereon", upon such terms and conditions as they may deem proper, but not for more than ten nor less than five years, at $10 a 
year rent for every acre leased, " and not leasing more than one acre in one lot or parcel to one person or firm ". 

[Strict adherence to this last clause is avoided by common consent, most of the leasing being done, when there is no opposition, in 
lots of seyeral acres. The commissioners evade the technical obstacle by writing, "This land is leased in parcels of one acre each, but 
inchided in one lease for convenience".] 

Sec 3. Gives the commissioners power to modify and cancel leases or to remit rent. 

Sec 4. Forbids the letting of "any land north of a line extending across Providence river from the south side of Hill's wharf, to a 
freestone monument at Lyon's point in East Providence, or letting any of the ponds in Little Compton, South Kingston, Tiverton, Charlestown, 
New Shoreham, or Westerly, or letting Long bed. Rock island bed, Muscle island bed, or Long Neck flats, in Providence river." 

Sec 5. Enjoins publication of applications for leases. 

Sec. 6. Gives the commissioners power to compel the attendance of witnesses, etc. 

Sec 7. Persons aggrieved may appeal from the commissioners to the court of common pleas. 

Secs. 8, 9, 10. Define appeal-proceedings, proceedings and judgment in appellate court, and proper execution of leases. 

Sec. 11. Requires the commissioners, before granting a lease, to have the land surveyed and platted ; to cause proper bounds to be set 
up on the shore in order to define the limits of the leased area; to see that such Laiul is inclosed with stakes or buoys not more than two 
rods apart (v.-hen not interfering with navigation); and to have the plats of all the leases bound in a book. 

Sec. 12. The expenses incurred under section 11 must be borne by the lessee, and the commissioners shall receive from the applicant 
their necessary expenses in supervising, and $1 50 a day for actual service. 


Sec. 13. Peualties of $20 fiue and double damages ensuing for tamperiug with boundaries of oyster-grounds. 

Sec. 14. "The oysters jilauted or growing in any private oyster-ground leased as aforesaid .shall, during the continuance of the lease, 
be the priv.ite personal property of the lessee of such oyster-ground; and tlio taking and carrying away thereof * » » shall be larceny 
* * * and shall be punished accordingly ; and, in addition to the penalty prescribed by law for larceny, the person convicted shall 
forfeit his boat * » * and all the implements used in the commission of said oifense." lu addition to this the owner of the oysters 
stolen has a private action for damages against the thief. 

Sec. 1.5. Requires the commissioners to see that the terms of the leases are properly fulfilled and rents punctually paid ; in case of 
failure they must terminate the leases. 

Sec. 10. Enables them to proceed against delinquent lessees. 

Sec. 17. " The commissioners may take possession of any lot leased upon which the rent or assessment shall not have been paid, and 
may dispose of such lot, with all of the oysters thereon, by public auction, to the highest bidder, upon giving one week's notice * * » in 
some newspaper printed in Providence." 

Sec. 18. Prohibits lishiug at night, under penalty of ^20 fine and forfeiture of boat and apparatus. 

Sec. 19. "Any person who shall wrongfully take and carry away oysters from a private oyster-bed shall, for the first offense, be fined 
§50, and for any subsequent offense shall bo fined .§100 and be imprisoned for six mouths." 

Sec. 20. Willful injury to any private oyster-bed or to any land leased for oyster-culture, subjects to a fine of $500 and confiscation of 
all apparatus involved. 

Sec. 21. Deprives of the privilege of fishing for three years, in addition to the other peualties, ujion second conviction for offences 
under this chapter. 

Sec. 22. Forbids taking more than two bushels of oysters a day from Trustan pond. South Kingston. 

Sec. 23. Makes each of the commissioners a special constable to enforce the law and seize the property of those violating it, and 
similarly empowers all police constables. 

Sec. 24. Declares that nothing is intended in the oyster-laws to " prevent any citizen of the state from digging clams or quahaugs 
on the shores of the x'ublic waters ". 

Form op lkase of ground for oyster-culture. — The form of lease by which ground for oyster-culture 
is conveyed "by the state of Ehode Island, to lessees, is appended herewith : 

No. . 

This indenture, of two parts, made and entered into on this day of , in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred 

and seventy , by and between the state of Ehode Island and Providence Plantations, on the one part, and , in said 

state, of the other jiart, witnesseth : 

That the said state doth hereby lease, demise, and let unto the said a certain piece of land in , lying and being 

and covered with tide-water, containing about acre- , and bounded and described as follows, to wit: 

To have and to hold to the said , executors, administrators, and assigns, to their use as a private or several 

oyster-fishery, for the planting and producing of oysters, for and during the term of ten years from the day of the date hereof, on the 
terms and conditions (among others) that the said lessee-, executors, or administrators, shall pay therefor to the general treasurer of said 

state, during the said term, the yearly rent per acre of dollars, in manner hereinafter provided. And the said state doth hereby 

covenant with the said lessee- executors, administrators, and assigns, that they may and shall occupy the premises hereby leased during 
the term aforesaid, peaceably and quietly, and free from all lawful claim and demand of all persons whomsoever, other than as 

hereinbefore or hereinafter set forth: the said lessee for — , executors, administrators, and assigns (with a reservation of his 

right to claim remission or abatement, as by law jirovided), doth covenant with said state, that will pay to the general treasurer, for 

the use of said state, the sum of dollars, on the first day of January in each year during the term aforesaid. 

Furthermore : This lease is made and accepted, subject to the provisions of existing laws relating to oyster-fisheries, and to a reserved 
right of the state to amend said laws as it shall deem expedient (reference to the same being here made) ; and also, subject to the further 
conditions fidlowiug, to wit : First. That he shall at all times erect, jilace, or renew the bounds, stakes, or buoys, with marks thereon, for 
defining the premises, as and when required by the commissioners. Second. That he shall pay all expenses of surveys of lots, aud 
renewing stakes or bounds, and rent, to the general treasurer, as aforesaid. Third. That he shall not underlet or assign the premises to 
any person whomsoever, without the assent, in writing, of the commissioners. Fourth. That he will not knowingly or willfully violate 
any provision of the laws at any time in force relating to the oyster-grounds or oyster-fisheries within the state ; aud Fifth. That, in the 
event he shall refuse or neglect to comply with or conform to these conditions, or any or either of them, the said commissioners may, on 
the of said state, re-enter upon said leased premises and terminate the lease, and declare the same forfeited, and dispose of the lessee's 
interest in the said land, together with all the oysters thereon, at public auction, to the highest bi<lder, upon giving one week's notice of 
such sale in some newspaper printed in the city of Providence ; and the lessee-, executors, administrators, or assigns, shall be holden to pay 
all damage that shall thereby be sustained by said state. 

In witness whereof, the commissioners of shellfisheries hereunto subscribe the name of said state, and set their names and seals as 

commissioners, and the said lessee- hereunto sets -— hand- and seal- the day and year aforewritten. 

TuE State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, 

By . [L. s.] 

Commissioner of Shellfislieries. 

Signed, sealed, and delivered in presence of- 

. [L. s.] 

. [L. s.] 

Assistant Commissioners of ShcUJisherics. 

Statistics of Ehode Island shellfisheries in 18G0 and 1SG5. — This general statute, in substantially 
its present shape, came into force iu 18C4. Trevlous to that time the state had let oyster-grounds at $1 rent per 
acre, and not much business was done. The condition of the shellfisheries in 18G5 is exhibited in the following 
table, extracted from the census report for that year. 

Iu 1861 the Ehode Island Society for the Encouragement of Domestic Industry stated, that while the 
coutiueutal shore-line of Ehode Island is only 45 mUes, it has 320 miles of shore washed by the tides. Five out of 



the 32 towus that compose the state are situated on islands. The bays embraced within the state, and the extensive 
salt ponds near the southern coast, abound with shelllisli. 

To ascertain the extent and value of these fisheries, the society made great exertions, but without success, at 
the time of the general census of 1800. A statement, nevertheless, exists in the report of 18G0, that the oysters of 
Rhode Island were valued at $382,170, out of a total of about $(3,000,000 for all the fisheries, excluding whales. In 
18G5, this point was made a special feature, and much fuller information was gathered. "These statistics," says 
the rei)ort of the general assembly's committee, " must, from the nature of the case, depend to some extent upon 
estimates. For example, the clams on the shores are free to all the inhabitants of the state who choose to dig 
them. Persons come to the shores from aU qunrters, and often from distances of several miles, and dig as many 
clams as they choose to eat or carry home. Nothing is exactly known of the quantities thus removed. The only 
estimates which could be made were from the opinions of the owners of shore-farms." 

I give below the table of the product of the shelltisheries, by towns, presented by the committee in 1865 : 




East Greenwich.. 

Warwick , 


Little Compton.. 



New Shorebam . . . 




East Providence. 
Providence city . 


North Kingston . 
South Kingston . 

Total , 


Bnshels of 











Bushels of 






Bushels of 








Bnshels of 



12, 100 

SO, 450 



Total valne 
of all shell- 

$2, 313 











19, 602 






118, 055 

Opposition to existing legislation. — Although the amounts in the above table ought to have been doubled 
to represent the truth in each case, on the average, yet they show that when the new law, putting a rent of $10 
an acre and organizing the oyster-interest under careful control by the state, went into operation, the whole value 
of the industry was very small, compared with the present. Since the passage of this statute the oyster-interest has 
steadily grown in importance. 

Nevertheless, there has always been more or less grumbling on the part of the owners of leases, who pleaded that 
they are paying an exorbitant rent. The general financial depression of 1873-76 heightened this discontent, and 
in the winter of 1878-79 it came to the surface in a contest before the legislature, which brought up several mooted 
points. The great bone of contention was the construction put by the commissioners upon who were suitable 
persons to receive leases. It was notorious that manj' Boston dealers planted oysters and operated business 
generally in Narraganset bay, upon ground leased in the name of some " inhabitant of the state", who might or 
might not act as their agent at the scene of operations. This practice was deemed by many native fishermen an 
infringement of law, and an injury to them. They, therefore, endeavored to procure the passage of a bill through 
the legislatm-e, making it a misdemeanor for any lessee of oyster-beds to be interested with any person not a resident 
in the state, with a penalty of $100 and a cancellation of the lease, for such "interested" connection. 

The sujiporters of this bill averred that its object was to secure to the citizens of Eliode Island the right to sujiply 
the demand for oysters grown and cultivated in waters of this state, and to induce the capital invested in that 
business to be located here, where it and the profits accruing might be subject to taxation, and thus made to help 
pay the revenues of the state* beyond the mere rent money of the ground. It was claimed that it was not intended 
as a restraint upon trade; did not imply that no lessee might borrow caxiital from outside the state, or might not 
contract to sell his oysters outside; and, also, that it was not with the intent to create a monopoly. 

The opposition to this bill was strong, and was put in tangible shape by the application of Mr. George N. Bliss, 
an ex-commissioner of shellflsheries, for lease of ground in Providence river, in his name, as a partner in a Boston 
firm. A hard fight before the general assembly and before the commissioners resulted. Those opposing him 

* I am of tlie opiuion that the capital from other states invested iu oysters iu Rhode Island is between $200,000 and $250,000. 
4 O 


stated that the superior capital of outsiders was securing all tlie ground that was good for anything, and was thus 
keeping away citizens who wanted to plant on a small scale in tbeir home- waters ; moreover, that the great firms 
could afibrd to undersell individual planters because of their large facilities and production, and worse than that, 
that they bi'ought oysters of poor grade, already opened, from IS'orfolk, mixed them with Providence river oysters, 
and so lowered the price and hurt the reputation of the honest native dealers. 

In reply, Mr. Bliss said that the law which was then before the legislature was unconstitutional, and if passed 
it would be impossible to enforce it. The state could not dictate whose money, or where obtained, a man should use 
in his business. The oysters within the state were taxable, and therefore Boston owners paid their ])roportionate 
revenue. Nor could the state say what a licensee shall do with his oysters, to whom or where he shall or shall not 
sell them. As to the scarcity of laud, that had been the cry for ten years, yet the state was leasing from one to 
two hundred additional acres of ground every year, and there would be more and more leased for years to come. 
Instead of harm, there was a positive benefit arising from the introduction of foreign capital, since there was not 
money and enterprise enough within the state to successfully keep it out by fair preoccupation of all opportunities. 
The more beds leased, the larger the number of oysters produced and the cheaper. The Ehode Island market, he 
stated, takes only one-tenth of the oysters grown in the state. The remaining nine-tenths are sold outside. The 
price of oysters in the Providence market has decreased each year since 1800, when the price was $1 75 per 
solid gallon, to 1878, when it was from $1 15 to $1 20, and to 1879, when it was only 90 to 95 cents. It appeared, 
therefore, that year by year oysters wore increasing in quantity and lessening in price. This was the result of good 
legislation; and so long as it continued, the sta'e was bound to consider the present regulations prosier and foster 
them. If the effects had been as terrible upon the resident oystermen as had been predicted, they would have been 
driven from the field long ago; but there is not one of them who is not still in business and annually enlarging 
his planting area. The state could not legislate for the aggrandizement of these few owners, but must study the 
general benefit of the whole commonwealth. 

The result of the fight was that the bill failed to become a law, and Mr. Bliss secured his new leases. 

A DEFENSE OF EXISTING LEGISLATION. — The above sketch partly answers the question, whether the law is 
equally wise in charging $10 an Hcre. From a careful study of the case, I, myself, believe that it is. The report of 
the commissioners of shellflsheries for 1878, reviewing the pre\'ious twenty years, jiroves this quite satisfactorily. It 
is admitted that at $5 an acre, for instance, the state would not have received so much money. 

In 1857 the revenue from oyster-rents was only $30. In 1858, when there was a commissioner to look after it, 
$685 22. From 1859 to 1801, there appears no mention of oyster -rents in the state treasurer's reports. I believe all 
dues were remitted on account of the universal destruction of oysters by starfishes at this time. In 1862, there were 
collected $82 ; 1803, $00 ; 1864, $01. Then came the present law charging $10 an acre, and the net proceeds of 
oyster-rents to the state at once advanced, as follows : 

1865 $ 737 72 

1866 661 27 

1867 1,568 50 

1868 1,814 40 

1869 1,949 15 

1870 1,527 65 

1871 2,186 63 

1872 $-2,772 95 

1873 4, 483 88 

1874 4,997 05 

1875 5,276 00 

1876 5, 300 00 

1877 6,045 25 

1878 6,582 90 

This shows that, in spite of a rent of $10 an acre, in spite of the fact of lively competition with Boston capital, 
in spite of the fact of the general financial depression just passed, and in spite of the steady decrease in the selling 
prices of all grades of oysters, the revenue to the state has steadily grown, and new leases are continually applied 
for. It is, moreover, an admitted fact, that assignments of oyster-ground are continually taking place, at a bonus 
of from $75 to $200 an acre. If the state is to make any alteration in this state of affairs, she would do better to 
advance than to reduce the rent upon productive ground. 

" But," say the dissatisfied ones, "we can never be sure that a piece of ground will be suitable for oyster-growth 
until we have tried it. If we take out, say ten acres, as an experiment, and perhaps are not able to plant it that 
year, or try it for two or three years, and then find that it won't do, we sulicr a heavy loss, paying several hundred 
dollars upon useless ground." 

The reply is, that men constantly do find it worth while to take the risk, even at $10. One person I know of, has 
applied for 100 acres, beyond any territory heretofore thought suitable ; and that in case they fail, or show that 
they have not been able to begin to use certain land as soon as they expected, the commissioners may, and often 
do, remit a part or the whole of the rent. This very year rent was remitted upon 47 acres belonging to one person. 
However, in their report for 1878, the commissioners referred to this alleged grievance as follows : 

At tho present time nearly all the oysters grown on private lieds are imported from Massachnsetts, Connecticut, New York, and 
Virginia, and altliongb oysters spawn here freely, it is only at rare intervals that there is what tho oystermen call a set, when tho spawn 
atta.chos itself aljmulantly to sticks, stones, sheila, and other substances, and grows to mature oysters. If, in some way, we could stop 
this great waste of spawn, so that it might produce oysters, an incalculable increase in our oyster-business would naturally follow. lu 
Couuecticut the oystermen throw into tho water immense quantities of oyster-shells at the exact time of oyster-spawning, and are thus 
very successful, as the spawn readily attaches itself to clean, bright shells. The holders of oyster-beds here say that they wiuild try 


similar exporiments, but they cannot afford to pay $10 an acre annual rent for such a purpose, especially as several years must elapse 
hefoi-e they would get returus, even if successful, and that the Connecticut men have the advantage of iiayiug only $1 annual rent for 
each acre. 

Under the present law the commissioners are not allowed to lease land for less then §10 annual rent for each acre, and we respectfully 
suggest that the general assembly inquire iuto the expediency of granting more favorable terms to persons who may wish to experiment, 
with a view of making productive our annual crop of oyster-spawn. 

It is probably unnecessary to say anything further with respect to the law, unless it be to state, that although 
not required by any express provisions of the statutes, the commissioners have always held themselves ready to 
attend to the prosecution of ofl'enders against the oyster-laws, whenever reasonable evidence has been presented to 
them, and have prosecuted many offenders, without charge for legal services. "It is evident," they rei)orted, "that 
there have been combinations for the purpose of stealing from these beds, which is done in the night-time by men 
in row-boats, with watchmen ready to give alarm at the approach of danger, and thus, in many instances, they are 
able to escape detection." The arrest and conviction of several put a strong check upon these thieves, who stole 
the oysters and then inflicted additional injury upon the bed- holders, by underselling them in the markets. 


The east side op Narkaganset bay. — Tradition says that oysters used to grow in Mount Hoi)e bay proper, 
below the mouth of the Taunton river; but I could get little trustworthy testimony on this point. Beyond that, 
on the eastern side, I could not learn of any oyster-beds, ancient or modern, until I reached Newport, where now 
none are growing or planted (the city deriving all its sujiplies from Providence), but where, in some of the larger 
salt water ponds, they formerly existed in considerable quantities. They were described to me as a large, round, 
scalloped oyster, quite different from those anciently found in the pond on Block island, which were said to be long, 
slender, and very good. It is i^robable that a careful survey of ponds and inlets along the eastern bank of the 
Scoconet river, and around Scocouet point, would disclose the remains of many extinct beds, and perhaps some 
living colonies of oysters. The same may be said of Newport neck and (Jonauicut island. 

The Kickamuit river is an inlet of Narraganset bay, at the extreme eastern boundary of the state, which has 
an entrance only a stone's throw in width, but expands interiorly iuto a bay about three miles long and one wide, 
the narrow upper portion of which is called Palmer's river. The water is shallow, of course, and the bottom of a 
very varied character. Forty-one acres have been leased, distributed among eight planters. Native oysters grew 
there of good size and quality, and some are got yet, but the chief value of the ground is for planting; and -aS. yet 
the experiment is too slight to afford much judgment. There seems good reason to expect success, since it used to 
be a famous place for "set". The bottom is also said to be full of fresh springs, which is highly in its advantage. 

Westward of the Kickamuit river are Warren, Barrington, and Palmer rivers, joining in an inlet of Providence 
river. In these three streams is leased a total of 173 acres, distributed among thirteen proprietors, some duplicating 
Kickamuit, Drownville, Providence, and Boston names. The shell-heaps strewn upon the knolls along all four of 
these rivers, show that the succulent bivalves have lived in their waters since time immemorial. Occasionally the 
natural oysters are still to be found; and that twenty years ago many remained, is shown by the fact that in 18G0 
an extraordinarily large number of infant oysters "set" on the shores. These native oysters were very large and 
long and slender. Their shells were not usually very heavy, and they were held in high esteem. At present there 
are none to be had of marketable size, and there are not enough young ones to be found in these rivers to amount 
to anything. Nevertheless the Warren and the Barrington are among the best places in Rhode Island, apparently, for 
oyster-culture. The water is wonderfully pure, sparkling, and salt, and flows in and out with a swift tide. The 
bottom is very hard, as a rule, and in places rocky. This fact makes the oysters there come to have a round outline, 
and a firmer, better substance within, though they do not grow so fast as they would lying upon mud. 

A score of years ago planting was begun above the road and railway bridges, in Barrington river, and among 
the first leases taken out was one for the acre or two of "quick-water" between the bridges ; but it is only within two 
or three yeurs that operations have been extended below this part into the main river, where the water is salt, and 
ranges in depth from 9 to 18 feet, over a hard bottom. 

The Virginia oysters bedded here do very well, indeed. They are handled mainly by one planter. His plan is 
to lay 75 bushels on an area 50 feet square, distributing them by shoveling overboard from the large crafts known 
as "planting-boats". Ten men, the usual number engaged on a single cargo, will thus unload and put upon the 
beds from 2,000 to 2,500 bushels a day. The Virginia oysters cost, put down, about 35 cents a bushel. On good 
ground the growth is gratifying, although about one-fourth of the original number put down are expected to perish. 
The large amount of cultch spread upon this gentleman's teriitory, had thus far yielded him no return of consequence, 
since he had idanted with it only a few natives. On the contrary, another prominent lessee in Warren river, gave 
his whole attention to rearing native oysters, and paid no attention at all to "Chesapeakes". He procures his 
seed, like all the rest of the dealers, from Somerset, Wareham, Pocasset, etc., but mainly from the Connecticut 
shore. Formerly he got it much cheaper, but now it costs him from 50 to 70 cents a bushel. The several hundred 
bushels he put down three years ago lived well, and he now considers them trebled in value. He has adopted the 


plan of not planting until June. " When the weather gets warm," he says, " the slime rises from the sand and rocks 
on the bottom of the river and floats away. There remains a clean bottom, and I wait to take advantage of this 
most favorable condition of things for my young oysters, who will huve a hard enough time, under anj- cii-cumstances, 
to live through it." Being fortunate enough to have a tract where the swift tide never permits serious freezing, he 
is able to wait until all his competitors are frozen up, when he can sell his easily accessible stock at a large 
advance upon the ordinary price, which averages about a dollar a bushel. 

Eumstick iioiut juts out from the southern end of Eumstick neck, a peninsula dividing the Warren river from 
the waters of Providence river. It is the site of a dangerous shoal, and the bottom is hard and in places rocky. 
There is only one owner of ground tliere, who leases 12 acres, but it is i)robabIe that a hundred acres more will be 
let there during 1880. 

PEO\aDENCE RIVER AND THE "WEST SIDE OE THE BAT. — Proceeding now up the eastern shore of Providence 
river, at Nayat point (which stands opposite Canimicut, and marks the real mouth of the river on this side), 46 
acres are now planted by a Providence firm. The beds are north of the point, on the sandy bottom around Allen's 

The next point above this is Drown\dlle, where the oyster-bottom is owned by three men, who divide 25 acres. 
Many other dealers, however, make Drownville their opening and shipping point, among them, several F.oston firms 
having large opening-houses and shipping extensively. So many citizens, not less than 125, are given employment, 
therefore, in the winter, that the remark of one was justified: "Drownville would evaporate if it were not for the 
oysters." The starfishes and periwinkles have been troubling the Drownville planters of late more than elsewhere. 

Eeaching back into the country north of Drownville, and protected from the outer bay by Bullock's point, is 
Bullock's cove, a shallow estuary, by many regarded as the very best place to plant oysters in the whole state. It 
is certain that, uniformly, the best oysters now jiut into the market come from this immediate neighborhood. The 
only reason I have heard assigned is, that the bottom has many springs in it, supplying constant fresh water. 
In Bullock's cove 13 acres are taken up by two men ; but the ground at Bullock's point (239 acres) is held by 12 

At Sabine's point, just above, there is only one owner, whose tract of 64 acres lies in a crescent between the 
light-house and the point. Just north, a single acre is let at Pomham rocks; and beyond, at Fuller's rocks, 9 acres 
are divided among four persons. This brings us to Field's point, on the western side, the northern limit of oyster- 
culture, and a scene of considerable operations, 23 acres beiog under lease to 9 persons. South of Field's point the 
river widens suddenlj', but the channel hugs the opposite (eastern) shore, leaving extensive shallows all along the 
western shore. Southward from Field's point to Starvegoat island (familiarly condensed into Stargut island) i-uns 
a reef which is pretty nearly dry everywhere at lowest tide. This reef was among the earliest tracts taken up by 
the veteran oysterman, Eobert Pettis. When, about 1861, the starfishes were deiiopulating the beds all over the bay, 
he alone was so situated that he could get at them at low tide and destroy them, and his good luck was the occasion 
of great profit to him. At Starvegoat island the beds now operated are 27 acres in extent. 

There were formerly natural oysters growing abundantly all over this part of the river; but the main deposit 
was just south of Starvegoat island, in the center of the tract of 160 acres, now known to oystermen as Great Bed. 
This in old times was the great scene of oyster-raking, and it is more than thirty years since these beds were wholly 
exhausted. Once in a while, then, they used to get a few enormous specimens from there, and peddle them about 
town at 10, 15, and 20 cents each; but even these disappeared long ago. The owners on this bed are no less than 
21 in number, and at Patuxent 63 acres more are taken up by five men. 

At Gasp(5 point, 10 acres, and at Canimicut point, 60 acres, both being in a little Salter and deeper water than 
any of the rest, complete the list of plantations, except one acre in Wickford harbor and another at Westerly. 

In former years beds grew natiu'ally clear up to the city of Providence, and oysters were even found iu the 
"Cove", that pretty circle of water near the railway station, the banks of which have been converted into a park. 
Now, however, any leasing of ground north of Field's and Kettle points is imjiracticable and prohibited, because 
of the large amount of impurities throAvn into the water by the city's drainage. The few beds up there — Long bed, 
West bed. Diamond bed, etc. — have, therefore, now been abandoned, and are not counted, though a few leases have 
not quite yet expired. 

At its January session, in 1878, the Ehode Island general assembly passed a resolution enjoining the 
commissioners to visit the Great Salt i)ond (also known as Powaget pond), in Charlestown. It lies on the southern 
border of the state, and communicates with the open ocean by a narrow inlet, which frequently becomes closed by 
the shifting of the sand in the autumnal storms. In this pond the spawn of the oyster sets abundantly each year, 
and grows rapidly until the closing of the breach connecting the pond with the ocean cuts off the daily supply of 
salt water, which causes the oysters to die in immense quantities. If a permanent connection of this pond with the 
ocean could be secured, the natural oysters, which are of excellent quality, could be grown with great success, and 
large quantities of seed- oysters could be obtained for stocking the oyster-beds of Narraganset bay. 

Such was the report of the examining committee, and such is the opinion of the people generally. Accordingly, 
the legislature appropriated 81,500 to defray the expense of constructing a sort of riprap wall, iu such a way that 
the currents and waves should help to keep the breach open, instead of closing it, and so maintain a constant influx 


and efflux of sea- water. Tliis work is not yet completed and tested. If it should succeed, a large, new territory 
will be added to the oyster-j;rounds of the state. 

Pawcatuck river. — The Pawcatuck river divides the state of Connecticut from Rhode Island, and is subject 
to tides as far up as Westerly, at least. From a mile below Westerly to its mouth it is inhabited by oysters, though 
of poor quality, and hence of small commercial importance. These are of two sorts : one kind, the "rock-oyster", 
attaches itself to the rocks along the shores and iu the bottom of the stream, and grows singly to a good size ; the 
other, called the "bed-oyster", grows in dense clusters, in crowded beds, and is of very small size; it is rarely 
brought to market, and is considered by the fishermen worthless to transplant, on account of the clustered condition. 
Sufticieut painstaking iu the matter would, of course, overcome this objection. For some years the oysters of 
all kinds iu this river have been afl'ected by a disease which interferes with their sale, because, whether for good 
reason or not, they are supposed to be unwholesome. The disease was described to me as producing little "boils" 
on the body, inside the mantle, as near as I could understand. It appeared first as a greenish spot, then became 
yellow, and liually turned into a black, rotten pustule. Various causes are assigned, but none are satisfactory. Dry 
seasons, like the present, seem to augment the disease, which is perhaps a fungoid growth that finally "eats out a 
hole", as the fishermen say, and it is not essentially different from the " greenness" of Somerset and Seekonk oysters. 

A large set occurs regularly iu this river, but in some years to a greater extent than in others. Three years 
ago was said to be an exceedingly productive year. Young oysters were found upon everything all through the 
river, and upon some rocky points down toward the mouth, they were said to have been seen lying on the shore 
"iu windrows a foot deep"; this is an exaggeration, no doubt, but gives evidence that there was a vast quantity. 
This was immediately following a dredgiug-out of the channel. Nothing of auy account was done toward saving 
them to stock beds anywhere. Pawcatuck river is not considered suitable for oyster-bedding to any extent, unless 
the ground should first be prepared by paving the mud and killing out the eel-grass. There are many impurities 
in the water, also, arising from drainage and the waste of many mills, print-works, and other manufactories. In 
W^ard's pond, on the contrary, a sheet of water affected by the tides, which lies four miles east of Westerly, is found 
a most excellent place for oysters, wild and cultivated, but the people who inhabit the shores do little themselves, 
and object to attempts on the part of outsiders. This i)ond contains between one and two hundred acres, and is 
nearly everywhere gravelly or sandy on the bottom, with considerable fresh water flowing in. I was told that 
nowhere iu this whole region did oysters grow so fast, and acquire so fine a relish, as here, but not having inspected 
the pond myself, I cannot corroborate these glowing reports by personal observations. 

Area of pre-empted oyster-grounds in Ehode Island. — To recapitulate, I append a list of localities 
where oyster- ground is let in Ehode Island, and the areas in 1879 : 

Locality. Acres. Locality. Acres. Locality. Acres. 

Kiokauiuit river 35 Sabine point G4 Caniniicut point 60 

P.ilmer'.s river 5 Pomham rock 1 WickCord harbor 1 

Warren river 141 Fuller's rocks 9 Ward's poud, Westerly 1 

Barringlon river 27 Field's point 23 

Runistick point 12 Starvcgoat island 27 Total number of acres 962 

Nayat point 46 Great Bed 160 

Drownville 25 Pawtuxet 03 Number of lessees 56 

Bullock's cove 13 Gasp<5 point 10 Average tract acres.. 17.2 

Bullock's point 239 

FUTITRE OF THE SHELLFISH-INDXTSTET IN Ehode ISLAND. — To the question : " Is all the suitable ground 
in Narraganset bay taken up " ! the oystermeu almost always reply : " Yes". But they have been doing so for years 
and years, yet from 100 to 300 acres have been added to the leased area every year, and applications for more are 
now in. Below Caniniicut point is iin extensive basin, with plenty of hard bottom, entirely unoccupied, owing to 
the depth of the water, which, however, over large tracts, is no deeper than is planted in Connecticut. The same 
is true of Greenwich bay, where one man assured me a thousand acres would someday come under oyster-cultivation. 
Not much experimenting has been done in either of these districts as yet, however, the cost of leases and the active 
opposition of the scallop-interest deterring. It may be said, in general, that land enough unoccupied remains in 
Ehode Island to give scope to all the capital likely to be invested there for many years to come. It has been asserted 
more than once by the commissioners, that the revenue from her shellfisheries ought to, and in time will, pay all the 
expenses of the state. 


Bedding Virginia oysters. — Thus far the bedding and fattening of Virginia oysters, mainly to be sold 
opened, has been the most profitable branch of the business. Of these oysters about .'iOOjOOO bushels are laid down 
annually, at present. The vessels employed in bringing them are mainly owned on Cape Cod, and liave already 
been named. None, so far as I could learn, hail from Rhode Island ports. The freight is about 15 cents a bushel, 
in the fall and winter, falling to 12 and 10 cents in the spring, when quicker voyages for planting purposes 
can be made. What part of the Chesapeake bay furnishes the best oyster for these waters is a question that has 
received much attention. One gentleman told me that he had lost the whole of two years' labor, by trying to put down 



cargoes from the Eappabamiock. Another planter, equally experienced, said these succeeded well enough if 
brought here and planted before the weather became at all warm. Oj'sters from the St. Mary and Potomac rivers 
are troublesome, because mixed with many obnoxious mussels, and, besides, they do not grow well, as a rule. 
Those from Tangier sound are pretty good, and are largely bought. The general verdict, however, is, that the best 
Virginia oyster for this bay is to be had in the James river. These show the largest growth at the end nf the 
season, developiug a hard, llinty shell and white meats ; on the contrary, I was told that at Xew Haven, Connecticut, 
the James river oysters cannot be used at all. But many cargoes are planted here, the exact southern home of 
which is never known. 

The laying down of soixthern oysters must all be done early in the spring. If they would only survive the 
voyage as late as June, Mr. Bourne thought that month would be the best time to plant them. When I suggestt'd 
the use of steamers to expedite the transfer, he said it would not help matters, for the jarring of the cargo, caused 
by the throb of the engine, would kill the moUusks; he did not even allow any wood to be split on his oyster- vessels, 
for fear of this species of damage. Of the half a million bushels bedded in Ehode Island yearly, about half are 
owned in Boston. 

Tkade in Norfolk opened oysters. — During the winter of 1878-'79, the Norfolk opened oysters were 
brought to Providence in large quantities, by several dealers. The following is a statement of shipments, 
furnished by the steamship comiiany : 

Ousters shipped from Norfolk to Providence, Rhode Island, via Merchants' and iliners' Transportation Company, during 1H78 and 1879. 
















February ^ 



1 742 



September , .. 





1 930 








The result of this experiment was so unsatisfactory, however, that the importation of this opened "barrel- 
stock" has been almost wholly abandoned. What now comes (so it is darkly hinted) is chiefly used to adulterate 
genuine " Providence rivers". 


Dearth of young oysters in Ehode Island. — The fattening of Virginia oysters is only half the business, 
though, perhaps, the most profitable part, in Rhode Island. A vast number of "native" oysters are raised in 
Nariagauset bay, though but a portion of them are born there. There are oidy a few places in the bay where a 
"set", as it is called, occurs with any regularity or of any consequence. In the Warren and Barrington rivers it has 
not happened for twenty years, and the same is true of the whole eastern shore, except Cole's, Kickamuit, and Seekonk 
rivers. Providence river itself never produces young oysters now, nor does any jjart of the western shore, except 
Greenwich bay and the ponds in the extreme southern part of the state, deriving their salt water directly from the 
Atlantic. The cause of this dearth of spawn and seed, where once every shore was populous with it, can only be 
ascribed, I think, to the antecedent disappearance, through persistent raking, of all the old native oysters. In 
Cole's river a heavy "set" occurred three years ago, and from 500 to 1,000 bushels are obtained every year. In the 
Kickamuit, the shores are dotted with infant ostreaj annually, and supply the planted beds there, while old oysters 
of very good quality are not infrequent. In dredging back and forth throughout the whole extent of Greenwich bay, 
the scallop-fishers frequently take up large oysters, evidently "to the manor born", and they are now and then seen 
on the shore-rocks. About 1872 there was a very large " set" here and in Potowomut river, just below. Boats came 
down from Providence and elsewhere and were filled again and again. But all of the crop left was swept away 
by starfishes, which were then very abundant, or was biuied beneath drifting sand and wrack, and so no 
establishment of a natural bed there was possible. If these young oysters were not all picked out of Greenwich 
bay in the fall, they would live through the winter, even where the ice rested fully upon them at low tide, and 
would soon repopulate the bay. But now their annual value to any one is insignificant and constantly decreasing. 

The seed-oysters of Seekonk river. — There remains one river, nevertheless, where, under protection, the 
oysters are able to reproduce regularly every year. This is the Seekonk, which flows down past Pawtucket and 
Providence, with East Providence on its left, and numerous bridges and small shipping to worry its swift tides. 
The Seekonk has always been a favorite home of the oyster, and year by year the river contributes its quota to 
the tougers, through a space from the Wicksbury pier to ueiirly five miles above. This iis due largely to the fact 


tliat the oysters of the Seekonk, like those of the Taunton river, are vividly green. No better reason can be 
assigned than in the former case, and, like the others, this seed, when transplanted for a few months, entirely loses 
its verdant tint. Seekonk oysters, therefore, never go to market, but are all caught for the seed. This catching 
begins November 1, according to law, and must close on May 1. These dates are arranged with the purpose to 
prevent successful planting, and so protectt the fishery; but the planters buy as long as the weather remains "open'' 
and warm. Very little raking is done in this river in the spring. The men who catch it are riverraen, who work 
at this a few weeks in November and December, and the rest of the year do other water-work. The law forbids 
taking more than 10 bushels in one day to each boat, but if the seed is plentiful, this law is very often violated, since 
there is no ofQcer to watch. Perhaps it is a direct good effect of these regulations, that 1S7S and 1879 have witnessed 
the largest yield of Seekonk seed known in a dozen years. The main buyers are AVilcox, Browne, Wall, and Adams, 
of India point; but everybody buys a few bushels who can. The catchers have to take what pay is offered them, 
but competition sometimes produces a good rate, the usual price being 25 cents a bushel. This being public 
ground, and everybody having a chance at it (many of the heavy owners send si^are boats and crews up this river 
to rake at odd times), it is impossible to come at any close estimate of the amount of seed oysters taken from the 
Seekonk during the last year. The truth I believe to be somewhere between five and ten thousand bushels. It is 
a shapely, hardy seed, opening well, and is in general demand, some planters putting it at the head of the list for 
its good qualities. One year on its new bed suftices to remove totally the green tinge, and two years to make it 

Seed-oysters from ABJoiNiNa states. —The remainder of the seed-oysters planted in Narraganset l)ay 
come from the Connecticut shore. East river. Fire island and the Great South bay, Somerset (planted chiefly by 
those owning privileges in Taunton river), and from various parts of Buzzard's bay. I often asked which was best, 
but could never get evidence of much superiority in any one kind. The success of a planting does not depend on 
the kind of seed put down, so much as it does upon a thousand cu'cumstances of weather, water, and bottom. The 
seed which would do excellently in one cove would behave badly in the next, and vice versa, individual i)references 
being founded upon these varying and unexjilained experiences. The seed from the south shore of Long Island used 
to be cheapest of all, and good ; but a Boston demand ran up the price beyond the pockets of Ehode Island planters. 
In general, it may be said that any seed transplanted to Narraganset bay develops into a better oyster than 
it would have come to be if left in its native waters. 

Undecided questions in oyster-planting. — Similarly, it is hard to tell what has been the outcome of 
a particular planting — that is, how much profit is made — because it is inextricably mixed with various other work. 
Native seed put down and ready to grow, has cost on an average about GO cents a bushel. To estimate profits ou 
it is out of the question, until the oysters are all sold, nor even then. If all does well, treble value is calculated upon 
in three years' growth. 

It is not even decided whether it pays best to grow "natives" or fatten "Ghesapeakes". The first year you 
plant a piece of ground the oysters do the best ; the next year poorer ; the third year they fail. Consequentlj-, 
the oystermen try not to plant the same area continually, but shift their oysters around to allow the old ground to 
be revived by free contact with the rejuvenating sea. If left down in one place more than three years, it is said 
that many of the oysters die, from no reason but exhaustion. It is the universal opinion, that the character of the 
bottom has quite as much to do with their nourishment and good growth as has the water. Ou sand they grow 
slower than in mud, but are of better shape and flavor. Similarly, they need to be far enough apart not to crowd 
one another into deformity. 

Much ground that is not now suitable might be made so, but needs to be carefully prepared, if the planter has 
any hopes of catching spawn,* and the more intelligent say that carelessness in this respect, and a lack of any source 
of spat, is the reason why in the Warren river and at other points no " set " has occurred for many years, and the 
depositing of cultch, in the shape of old oyster-shells, has been in vain. It is found on the seed-grounds, that the 
more a spot is raked (not denuded by a dredge, but often raked), the more it produces. Cat point, Seekonk river, 
is one example of this; Somerset, after the full-dredging, is another instance. To prepai-e a muddy tract, you need 
to pave it with shells. This is done early in the spring, 10,000 bushels of shells, say, being thrown on, at an 
expense of from $250 to $300. Then in June, when the shells have settled well iuto the mud and formed a strong 
surface, throw down more clean shells, and scatter a quantity of large living oysters just ready to spawn — 100 
bushels of "mothers" to three or four thousand bushels of shells. Scallop-shells make the best stools or cultch, 
because they are thin and brittle, and can easily be broken away from the seed when it is to be taken up and 
transplanted. You thus have the source of spawn, and its most suitable resting place, side by side. 

Great success in several instances has followed this plan, particularly in Greenwich bay and Apponaug cove, so 
far as the catching of spawn is concerned. One planter told me that he put down, in 1877, about $125 worth of cuLtch 
and mother-oysters at the latter place, and calculated that he obtained, in a few weeks, $10,000 worth of seed; but 
a little later it all died— why, he is unable to guess. Another gentleman, at the same place, last year, put dowu 
1,60:> bushels of shells and 00 bu.shels of spawning or mother-oysters. In the immediate vicinity of these he got a 

* The very meager account given of this form of true oyster-culture is supplemented in the chapters G and U on Connecticut and 
the Kast river, where the process is carried to a much greater degree of i)erlection. 


good set; but on a closely adjacent bed, where there were no "mothers", not a young oyster was to be seen. He 
had had the same experience in the Kickamuit. On the other hand, the simple tumbling over of shells in the hope 
of catching drifting spawn, has proved almost universally a failure here. One man told me he had planted shells 
steadily for thirteen years in Providence river, and had got only one set worth mentioning. 

Native oysteks at Block island.— On Block island, many years ago. there was an abundance of small 
oysters living in the pond that occupies so much of the interior of the island. For some reason, however, they 
were rarely found in a fit condition for food, but would serve to transplant. The oystermen at Clinton, Connecticut, 
and elsewhere, used to buy them, the price being 2j cents a bushel, delivered at their destination. The shells of 
these Block island oysters were so delicate, one planter told me, that it was easy to pinch your thumb and finger 
through them, and often there would be so much air and fresh water held within their half-vacant shells, that they 
would float when thrown overboard in planting, and drift away. All these oysters long ago disappeared, and no 
cultivation has been tried to replace them. 

Eeturning northward, I find that, at Bristol, several attempts to raise oysters have foiled, and that the markets 
of this ancient and beautiful village are now supplied by Providence. 


Men and starfishes.— The active enemies of the oyster in these waters are five: human thieves, popularly 
known as "ten-flugers"; starfishes, or "five-fingers"; winkles, drills, and annelid worms. I will not dwell upon 
these here, because the subject is fully discussed in another chapter devoted especially to these pests. Stricter 
measures of both guarding and punishing have, of late, put a stop to the stealing to a great extent. The starfishes 
have not been seriously troublesome, except in limited spots, since their memorable visit in 1800 and ISOl, when 
they all but extirpated the business, and compelled it to move up to West and Diamond beds, now abandoned, 
where the water was too fresh to permit the starfishes to follow, and where a heavy fall of snow came to the aid 
of the oystermen, and finally killed the five-fingers, by freshening and chilling the water beyond their endurance. 
During the last two or three years, however, starfishes have become more numerous, particularly in the Bullock's 
Point region, and have done much damage. 

MOLLITSKS AND WORMS.— The wiukles, or " wrinkles ", Sycotypus canaliculatus, seem also to be on the increase, 
and commit considerable damage. In many parts of the bay drills, Urosalpinx dncrea, occur abundantly, and rapidly 
destroy the seed and younger oysters, not attacking the old ones so readily. In Taunton river, a few years ago, 
this little mollusk made clean work, eating nine-tenths of all the seed between Somerset and Assonet. In Pawtuxet, 
this year, the oystermen have been greatly troubled by multitudes of annelid worms, Soyulcc, whose tortuous, 
cyhndrical cases are formed thickly upon every sheU, and serve to collect a coating of cases, sand, mud, etc., which 
is often half an inch or more thick. This is known locally as "sanding-up" or "loading", and under its infliction 
the mollusks suffer greatly in quality, probably through the fact that the parasitic worms, which feed upon the 
same organisms as the oysters, extract much of the nourishment from the water, which otherwise would go to make 
them fatter. One or two other minor animal agencies inimical to the oyster are at work aU the time. 


Capital invested. — The amount of capital invested in this district it is almost impossible to come at. It 
probably approaches $1,000,000, including perhaps $300,000 or $350,000 worth of seed-oysters growing on the beds. 
One third or more of this property is owned in Boston, and the necessary money for carrying on operations comes 
thence, but is represented by men who also do more or less private planting on their own account. Of coiuse this 
is chiefly in the hands of a dozen or more planters on the list ; the forty or fifty others will not average a greater 
sum than $1,000 each invested in this business, which is chiefly conducted personally, close to their bay-side homes, 
and without hired help, by selling to home-shippers. The expensive warehouses required by some of the wholesale 
dealers and shippers in the city of Providence count largely in the estimate of capital involved; and the boats used 
are of a good class. 

Yield and value of the oyster-beds. — The yield of the beds and its value, appears in the following 
table : 


1879. Native oysters produced on beds owned in Rhode Island 108,200 

Southern oysters, ditto 274,:i00 

Native oysters produced on heds owned out of the state 40, 000 

Southern oysters, ditto 238,000 

Total Narraganset production 660, 500 

The total value of this, and some additional annual business, will amount to at least $600,000, at the original 
wholesale price paid the jiroducer. 

Prices and wages. — The prices at which oysters were sold by wholesale dealers in the city of Providence, 
during 1879, were the following : Virginias, in shell, selected, $1 to $1 25 per bushel; Virginia plants, common, 90 


cents per gtillou ; Virgiuia plants, selected, $1 25 per gallon ; natives, in shell, $1 25 to $1 50 per bushel ; at retail, 
25 to 35 cents a quart, of all kinds. Some " fancy " lots, of course, brought higher rates than these prevailing market 
prices. In "Arnold's" and other restaurants the most palatable oysters possiI)le are laid upon the counter to 
tempt the appetite. Those Irom Gaspe point, purely native -grown, are recognized as the very best of all, and sell 
for five cents a piece. They are delicious. So great an industry, of course, gives support to a numerous body of 
citizens in this district, at least during part of the year. In the summer so little is done that comparatively few are 
employed, this number including only the proprietors of beds the dealers and assistants who are obliged to keep 
their shops open, and the few men required for catching oysters for the feeble market, for spreading shells and 
planting seed, and for watching the safety of the beds. Reckoning the proprietors as perhaps 100 in all, the 
addition of the rest employed the yeai^ronnd would bring the total up to about 250; but this varies considerably 
from year to year. They are paid by the week, as a rule, wages running from $7 to $14, and averaging about $10. 
For the colder half of the year, " the season," as it is called, large additional help is needed, both on the water and 
in the opening-houses that are placed close to the shore at various points, or on the wharves in the southern part 
of Providence city. Taking all the oyster-houses together at the head of Narraganset bay, I find about 350 openers 
employed. Add this to the 250 counted up as otherwise employed, and I have GOO men as the total. A very large 
pi'oportion of these men are married ; and I believe it would not be unfair, all things considered, to multiply this GOO 
by 4, which would give us 2,400 persons of all sexes and ages supported chiefly by the oyster-industry in the Rhode 
Island district. I believe this is short of the truth. The sum of the wages paid is somewhere about $125,000 annually. 

Oyster openers and their methods. — Separating the meat from the shell is known in Providence as 
"cutting out" an oyster. The "cutters" or openers are taken from a low grade of society, as a rule, and are about 
one half foreigners, mostly natives of Ireland. During the summer many of them go "bony-tishiug", i. e., in chase 
of the menhaden, Brevoortia tyrannus, others get a living in various capacities along the shore and on the water, 
and a large portion of them are common laborers. No women are employed here in the opening houses. I was told 
that an experiment made in employing them some years ago was regarded as a failure. Very few boys are to be 
seen, also. Here the only method followed is that known as "side-opening". The opener holds the oyster 
in the palm of his unsupported left hand, which is protected by a sort of gauntlet of leather, while he pries the 
shells apart with his knife. This is a quicker method than any other, but it is very laborious, causing a hard 
strain upon the muscles of the hand and wrist, and upon those of the left side. It has an advantage, however, of 
producing less bre^iking and refuse than any other style of cutting out. The oyster-meats, nevertheless, are carefully 
washed by being stirred about in large colleuders, through which clean water is running. This gets rid, at the same 
time, of course, of all the natural moisture or liquor of the oyster, and the result is known as "solid" measm-ement. 

The payment for opening oysters is made at the rate of so much per gallon "solid" or "in liquor",-as agreed 
upon; if the former, 12 cents is the usual i>rice the present season ; if the latter, 17 and 20 cents is demanded. From 
$1 to $2 a day is earned while work lasts. The amount of difference between a gallon of oysters measured " solid " 
and one measured "in the liquor", depends on the condition of the stock. It is the universal complaint this year, 
that all Rhode Island mollusks are " opening poor"; that is, there is too much liquor and too little meat in the shells. 
This is universally attributed to the fact that the present autumn (1879) has been very dry; more rain would have 
made the oysters "fatter". At present it takes three liquor-gallons to make two solid ones, at their best; but in 
some years the difference is almost nothing, and then the oystermen will say : " You couldn't press the meat back 
into its own shell, after opening," so rich and elastic are the juicy bodies. 

Statistical recapitulation for Rhode Island: 

Number of ijlanters 100 

Number of lessees in 1879 50 

Extent of grouiifl cultivated acres.. 9()2 

Value of same (about) fllo.OilO 

Value of shore-property (about) f75, UUO 

Number of boats eugag(,'il 100 

Value of same, with outfit |20, 000 

Number of men hired by planters or dealers through the whole year 1.', 

Annual earnings of same ^Tf), 000 

Number of men hired half the year 3'i0 

Semi-annual earnings of same jSO, 000 

Number of families supported, exclusive of retail-trade, about 500 

Annual sales (Ij!!?!)) of — 

I. Native oysters bushels.. 148,200 

Value of same '. |205,.'')00 

II. Chesapeake "plants" bushels.. 274,;!00 

Value of same ,$;;00, 000 

III. Fancy stock bushels.. 1.5,000 

Value of same |;20, 000 

IV. Baltimore and Norfolk "opened stock" gallons.. 8, OoO 

Value of same ^5,000 

Value of oysters raised in Rhode Island, but owned elsewhere |;2fi0, 1100 

Total first value of all oysters produced in Narragausett bay, annually |6f^0, ')00 




Natural and artipicial beds near New Lokdox. — The extreme eastern point on the Connecticut shore 
where any oysters occur, is in the neighborhood of New London. A few miles east of the mouth of the Thames, in 
the township of Groton, is an inlet and river known as Pequonock. In '.877 several gentlemen leased about 35 
acres of ponds on the east side of this river. In one of these ponds, containing about 15 acres, native oysters grew 
upon the rocks and around the edges. A portion of the bottom of this pond they prepared for oyster-raising, by 
spreading scallop-shells over six acres, and gravel and beach-sand over two acres. Here they planted some 2,500 
bushels of seed from Stony Creek, Clinton, and Fair Haven, Connecticut, at a total expense of between $4,000 and 
$5 000. These oystej-s have grown finely, but as yet few have been taken to market. This year (1879-80) has been 
a comparatively poor one for them. 

The oysters in Peqnonock river are deep and cup-shaped, not of large size, and with a thin, white, flinty shell. 
Locally, they are very highly esteemed. Another locality where this firm has undertaken oystei'-cultivation, is in 
the Niantic river, an inlet just west of the Thames, where they have had 20 acres set off for the purpose, and have 
already planted some seed. In Alewife cove, between Niantic bay and the Thames, they have also several acres 
of ground which they purpose preparing in the near future. A few oysters are now being put upon the market 
from these ponds, and have met with a good reception, at high prices. These planters believe that a grand success 
awaits them: others assert that the waters are unsuitable, and that little of importance will result. Three persons 

are employed. 

In the river Thames, years ago, were great numbers of indigenous oysters. Thousands of bnshels were 
annually obtained for the markets of the neighboring towns. These oysters were of good quality, and generally 
of immense size. Planting, however, was never a success, owing to the great freshets which often sweep down the 
river, and also owing to the impurities that are cast so plentifully into the stream from the drainage of the towns 
and from multitudinous factories along the tributary streams. Nevertheless, a few native "Norwich river" oysters 
are annually caught, except in the close season, between March 1 and November 1, and there are half a dozen 
persons in Norwich who deal in them and in other oysters, but the whole city's trade, probably, does not amount 
to 10,000 bushels a year of "natives" and "Chesapeakes" combined, and is decreasing. 

At New London, the oystermen own ground at Bullock's point and Drownville, in Providence river, Ehode 
Island. Upon those tracts, in 1879, they bedded about 15,000 bushels of Virginia oysters, in addition to receiving 
a winter's snpply of 35,000 bushels. New London and its neighborhood also consumes about 700 bushels of fancy 
oysters annually, mainly brought from Providence, Ehode Island. The prices at this point, in 1879, were, for 
southern oysters, 80 cents to $1 a gallon; for native stock, 50 cents a quart, or $1 GO a gallon, wholesale. Twenty 
cents a solid quart is paid for opening. 

There are employed here in the winter months 12 men on oyster-vessels and 25 men on shore, besides the 
principals. These are mostly heads of families, who engage in menhaden-fishing in summer. 

Oysters in Saybrook. — Moving westward i'rom New London, the first village of consequence is Saybrook. 
There is a small stream here called Oyster river, that produces a variety of the bivalves after which it is named, 
which are saxl to be of superior quality. Mr. John N. Clark kindly made inquiries for me, and reports that the 
production is trifling. Fifteen or twenty persons engage in these native fisheries at odd hoiurs, getting so few 
bushels each, that the total gathered in the whole season will probably amount to no more than a hundred. Five 
years ago the town appointed a committee on the subject, and several persons received grants of laud for the 
purpose of cultivating oysters, but the obstacles (chiefly thieving) were so many that no one has persisted in the 
attempt, either to bed southern oysters or to raise native stock. 

Oysters in Clinton. — At Clinton, a little village settled under the name of Kenilworth (afterwards corrupted 
into Killingworth), at the month of the Hammonaset river, the oyster-business is of long growth, and is somewhat 
peculiar. The harbor, in old times, contained an abundance of large, succulent oysters, but these have been ail-but 
exhausted in one way or another. About twenty-five years ago the planting began in the harbor, the seed then 
used being caught mainly at home or brought from Block island. The harbor, at present, contains about 200 acres 
suitable for oyster-growth. Formerly there was much more, but a few years ago the sea made a breach through 
the peninsula which incloses the harbor, by which the southerly storms are given so fierce an entrance into the bay, 
that any attempt at oyster-work, or even at navigation, over much of the water-space, is rendered utterlj' futile. 
If this breach, locally known as the Dardanelles, could be filled up — and the cost, I was informed, would not exceed 
$1,000— a thousand acres, or more, would be added to the oyster-bottom. The bottom is hard, the water nowhere 
too deep for tonging, and of about the right degree of freshness. Mud and sand drift so badly in winter, however, 
that no oysters can be left down during that season. The practice, therefore, is to put down not only Virginias, 
but natives of so large a growth that they shall be marketable the next winter. Years ago a much larger number 


of Virginia oysters were planted than at present— ofteu 20,000 bushels — but the business has changed, until now 
only 8,000 bushels a year are demanded. The freight from the Chesapeake is 12 cents a bushel, and the following 
four schooners find employment: J. H. Chaflee, 130 tons; Mary Stow, 100 tons; G. A. Hayden, 108 tons; Helen P., 
14G tons. 

A fair " set" occurs in Clinton harbor every year, and in 1877 there happened a very heavy one. A certain 
quantity of this survives, and about 1,000 bushels are utilized annually. The majority of the "native" oysters, 
however, are raised from seed bought along the shore to the westward, that from Xorwalk being preferred. This 
costs from 75 cents to $1 a bushel, and is planted in April. It is ready to take up late in the following autumn, 
and has grown rapidly, and into handsome shape. The quality, also, is most excellent, such oysters selling for from 
$1 to $1 50 a bushel, at wholesale. The annual production of this stock amounts to 2,000 bushels. The only enemy 
of the ojster here is the drill ; but this is sadly abundant. 

To recapitulate, Clinton j)roduces annually — 


Oi'sontbern pl.ants, about - - 8,000 

Of Oounecticut plants, about '2,000 

Of native oysters, about - 1, 000 

Total 11,000 

The total investment here, which at present will not exceed $10,000, is divided among about fifteen planters, 
and affords a partial livelihood for ijerhaps a score of families. 

The bottom of the margin of the sound off the villages of Madison and East River has been staked off to a 
considerable extent, but is utilized by only one firm of oyster-producers. Mr. Elihu Kelsey has kindly reported to 
me, by letter, upon the extent of their operations. Their beds consist of six acres or more, and are near a small 
island (tailed Overshore. This area is protected on its southern side by high reefs of rocks. They have a second 
bed of about 12 acres extent, a mile and a half eastward near Tufas island, in 1:0 feet of water, with hard, sandy 
bottom, where they are experimenting. They also own a third bed near Guilford harbor of 24 acres, on which they 
have s])read "2,000 bushels of shells and a good many small stones, on which the oysters 'set' and grew for four 
years, and were the best in the world; but the water is too shoal without artificial protection, and the storms and 
thieves have ruined the bed". As not enough "set" is caught upon the stools, a thousand bushels or so of seed- 
oysters are annually raked from the natural beds in the vicinity of East Eiver, or bought from dealers in Stony 
Creek and New Haven and planted upon the beds. These various beds yielded, during 1879, about 1,200 bushels, 
the most of which were sold in the shell at $1 to $1 50 per bushel. For opened oysters $1 60 a gallon was received. 
jSTo southern oysters were liandled in any shape. In respect to the drawbacks and general condition of the business 
at East Kiver, Mr. Kelsey writes: "The first drawback to success is the lack of good protection from storms 
which might be remedied by the construction of a breakwater. The second is the constant alteration of the state 
laws designed to protect the industry. The third drawback is thieving. The present condition of our producing 
beds is good ; and the ])rospect is, that with plenty of hard labor our venture will be remunerative. We find the 
character of the soil to be of the greatest importance. On our producing-bed the mineral ingredient of the soil is 
iron. This renders the oysters healthy and of the finest flavor, so that our customers say they cannot be excelled." 

Oystek-culture in Guilford. — At Guilford some inshore ground is cultivated, but this is not of great 
capacity. Outside, west of Goose island, they have improved about IGO acres in water from seven to ten fathoms 
deep, upon a hard, sandy bottom. This outer tract has not as yet had time to yield much. The spreading of shells 
in the hope of catching spawn, appears futile, for the sufticieut reason that there are no living oysters in the vicinity 
to produce the spat. A large quantity of seed has therefore been placed on this area. This seed was imx-ured 
partly in the Guilford river, although there is great opposition to its being taken, aud has largely been bought in the 
western part of the state. Besides this, several hundred bushels of large-sized oysters have been scattered among 
the planted shells, to i)r(>duce the spawn which it is desired to catch. A small set has already been obtained, and 
next year some harvest will begin. 

The oysters heretofore and at present obtained at Guilford, from the artificial inshore beds which have been in 
existence for thirty years, are of large size and fine shape. Their flavor is excellent. Formerly they were sold 
regularly to Hartford buyers at $8 and $9 a barrel ; now, however, they are worth on'y $1 to $3. About 800 bushels 
a year comprise the total yield at present. No Virginia oysters are planted at Guilford. Experiments showed that 
the practice was not successful. The great drawback upon the inshore ground is the drifting of sand and mud, 
which is likely to occur in storms; the drills, also, are troublesome, but I did not hear that starfishes had caused 
much damage thus far. 

The native i iver-oysters at Guilford formerly lined the whole river, opposite the town, for three or four miles. 
A town-regulation early prohibited the taking of more than two bushels a day by one person, but this has been 
more or less evaded, and now the fishery is of little value, all the oysters taken being very small; yet there is so 
strong a popular prejudice against utilizing any of this product in seeding the artificial beds, or against allotting 


the suitable ground in the exhausted river for cultivation, that the town voted to not avail itself of the privileges 
granted by the state, in general statutes, which are as follows: 

Sec. 12. " The selectmen of Guilford may lease, for not exceeding ten years, all ground of the town in East and West rivers, suitable 
for planting or cultivating oysters, to the highest bidder," at public auction ; but no lease shall be made to any person of more thau live 
acres, nor to a minor. " The leases shall be executed by the selectmen, as deeds of real estate, reserving to said town the rents for such 
grounds, * * » and any lessee shall, during the term of his lease, be the owner of all the oysters thereon, but shall not take any oysters 
therefrom in the night season." 

This ratification, as I have stated, was refused, and a two-bushel protective regulation was made instead. 

About COO acres of land have been set apart for oyster-cultivation iu the waters of the sound, outside of this 
harbor, besides that already mentioned near shore. No improvement, however, has yet been made upon this area. 

Oyster-cultuee in Stony Creek. — The next point of oyster-culture is Stony Creek, where the large 
collection of islets known as The Thimbles affords excellent opportunity for planting and raising. Organized 
business here is of comparatively recent date, but native oysters of extra quality were always to be had for the 
raking in the harbor. The largest dealer is the Stony Creek Oyster Company, N. P. Miner, president, which was 
established in 18G8, and now owns 400 acres of ground devoted to the growing of oysters, and has a capital stock 
of $42,000. 

The Stony Creek Oyster Company raises annually about 15,.500 bushels of natives, and employs six men. All 
the stock is sold in shell, shipping in barrels, and opening little or nothing. The other persons engaged in planting 
have spent a good deal of money here in getting the foundation of a business laid, but with small actual results as 
yet. There is also a large class of citizens who cultivate for personal use, or sell to a trifling extent, and so get a 
partial support out of the industry. It was very difficult to gather any exact or approximate figures, therefore, 
outside of the oyster company's report ; but I judge that all the other producers together, added to the 15,500 
bushels reported by President Miner, will not bring the total j^roduction of Stony Creek, in 1879, above 20,000 

The prospects at this point seem very good. Some large sloops are employed in dredging, and it is proposed 
to employ steam very soon. An air of unusual thrift is observable about the oyster-houses on the shore, which do 
not, as is too often the case, disfigure the pleasant scene. Stony Creek is a favorite source of seed-supply to the 
planters of Ehode Island, and probably one-fourth of the year's yield is sold in the spring for this purpose, the 
purchasers sending sloops to be loaded. Stony Creek beds had a good set in 1879, very little in 1878, but a massive 
collection of spawn in 1877. The great obstacle to success along this part of the coast, is the lack of smooth, hard 
bottom, and the liability of the ever-present mud, to be moved about and settle ui^on the oyster-beds in such quantities 
as to kill the young and stunt the old ones. The oysters grow in clusters, and are likely to be of large size, long 
and slender, forming " coon-heels" and " razor-blades". They are so clogged with mud when brought ashore, that a 
stream from a hose must be turned upon the heap before the clusters can be broken apart, preparatory to the 
culling tor size. 

Oyster- CULTURE in Branfohd and East Haven. — At Branford, a few miles westward, about the same 
state of things exists, and there are some additional discouragements, making the prospect less bright than at Stony 
Creek. Some who have tried it assert, that Branford is good for nothing as an oyster-nursery, but others have 
a brighter faith. It formerly had more prosperity than at present, in this line. The river was a gieat natural 
ojster-bed, but has now become nearly depopulated, and it is hard to get any seed for the outer beds. The starfishes 
are reported to have damaged the beds very greatly in 1878, and the drill is an ever present enemy. Southerly 
storms often bury the oyster-beds here wholly out of sight. This misfortune happened to one planter, after an 
expenditure of over $1,200 on artificial beds inside of Stony island. The whole product of the locality last year, 
was about 3,500 bushels, and half a dozen families are supported. Ofl' Branford and East Haven's coast, in the 
deeper water of the sound, more or less ground has been granted to strangers, but the results are nothing, as yet. 

At the village of East Haven about 80 acres are under cultivation in the ott'-shore waters of the sound, 
devoted wholly to native oysters, for which seed is procured from neighboring beds, or spawn is caught on planted 
shells. In 1879 the catch was 3,000 bushels, all of which were sold iu the shell at an average price of $1 per 
bushel. It is supposed there remain -0,000 bushels of oysters on the ground, sitbject to risks from heavy storms 
and creeping enemies. The mode of catching is by dredges at all seasons, and three men find employment at $2 
wages per day. 

Statistical sujimary for eastern Connecticut. — Recapitulating the statistics of this eastern district of 
Connecticut, we find the following result for 1879 : 

Number of acres improved, about 900 

Number of families supported, about 100 

Number of bushels of "natural growth" oysters marketed, about 8,700 

Number of bushels of southern oysters used Ci, 000 

Number of bushels northern planted oysters sold, about - 34, 000 

Number of vessels engaged : schooners, (3 ; sloops, 20 26 

Amount invested iu hxtures, etc., about S75, 000 



Abundance of otsteks in fokmee days. — New Haven is one of the principal depots of the oyster-trade 
in Connecticut, and in the United States. Witli New Haven, however, 1 inchide Fair Haven, South Haven, West 
Haven, and Milfoid, since the business all around and off the mouth of the hariior is substantially united. 

From the earliest times the borders of the Quiuepiac river, on the eastern boundary of the city of New Haven, 
have been the scene of oyster-operations. Shell-heaps along its banks show how the aborigines sought in its waters, 
season after season, the best of bivalves, and the earliest settlers followed their example. Natural beds of oysters 
were scattered over the bottom of the whole river for three miles, clear up to the North Haven salt meadows, and 
at intervals along the eastern shore of the harbor, where favorable coves existed. At all points these mollusks were 
convenient of access. The result was that the raking of oysters iu this river, and along the eastern shore of the 
harbor at its mouth, which was a free privilege, was early adopted as a business by many persons who lived near 
the banks, and a considerable retail peddling-trade was thus kept up throughout the neighborhood, in addition to 
the home-supply. Wagon-loads of opened oysters iu kegs, traveled iu winter to the interior towns, even as far as 
Albany, and thence westward by canal. 


Importation from New Jersey and the Chesapeake. — It came about, that among the first places in New 
England to import oysters from New Jersey, and then from Virginia, to be transplanted for additional growth, was 
Fair Haven ; and ii is probable that far more oysters were brought there from the Chesapeake twenty years, or 
even ten years ago, than now are. At that time a large tleet of Connecticut vessels was employed in this trafiic 
every winter, and some stirring traditions remain of perilous voyages during that icy season. They were better 
oysters that came in those days, also, than now. While a large majority of these cargoes were at once sent into 
the current of winter-trade, and distributed to customers all over the state (for no other harbor fattened 
"Chesapeakes" to any extent), a quarter or so of the whole season's importation was regularly bedded down, 
in Aprd and May, to supply the summer and fall demand. The favorite bedding-ground then, ns now, was "The 
Beach", a sand-spit running off into the harbor for more than a mile from the Orange (western) shore. This is 
hare to a great extent at low tide, but covered everywhere at high tide, and is the best possible place for its purpose. 
The ground on this beach rents at from two to five cents a bushel, according to location. Those occupying the 
Beach each year — in 1879 they were 23 in number — form themselves into a mutual protective association, and 
jn-ovide watchmen who never leave the ground. Formerly these watchmen lived in boats housed in, but now, upon 
opposite extremities of the Beach, jiiles have been driven and two houses have been built, where these men live, and 
whence they walk or row about day and night to guard the property. They go on duty at the time of the first 
planting, and remain until the last oyster is gathered, a period usually about nine months long. Their wages are 
only .§40 a month, and it would seem to be an extremely tedious duty ; yet there is no lack of volunteers for the 
places. But I have shot ahead of my subject, in following out this matter to its present status ; let me return to a 
past period. 

The Virginia trade began about forty or fifty years ago, Captain Merritt Farran having been the first man to 
bring them. His cargo was a sloop-load of about 600 bushels, profitably sold. The trade rapidly grew into 
immense proportions. Just when it was at its zenith it is hard to say — jn-obably about thirty years ago— and 
it was then very profitable. The Fair Haven establishments had branch-houses iu all the inland cities, as far as 
Chicago and St. Louis, and it was reported that the profits of a single house, from 1852 to 1S56, amounted to 
$25,000 a year. Levi Rowe & Co., alone, in 1S5G, are said to have employed 20 vessels, and 100 openers, and to 
have sold 150,000 gallons of oysters, while companion -houses shipped from 1,000 to 1,500 bushels per day throughout 
the season. In 1S57-'5S, according to De Broca, from 200 to 250 schooners were employed in supplying the 
establishments of Connecticut from the Chesapeake and Fair Haven, which alone, he says, made use of 2,000,000 
bushels, but this undoubtedly was a large exaggeration ; one-half of that would certainly more than cover the facts. 
Half a dozen years later, when De Broca wrote, the decline was very perceptible. 

De Broca's description of New Haven in 1802.— Some extracts from Lieutenant De Broca's report, made 
iu 1862, to the French government, upon the oyster-industries of the United States, and re])rinted in the first 
report of the United States Fish Commission, will present interesting, if not wholly trustworthy, reminiscences of 
New Haven at that time, where Lieut. De Broca is well remembered. This writer says : 

New Havcu, the capital of Counecticut, ranks next to Boston iu importance, iu the oyster-trade. The husiness is divided into two 
distinct branches, the culture of oysters and the various occupations connected with their transportation to the towns of the interior 

Th(^ principal plantations are situated in the bay. Commencing at a short distance from the head of the great pier, they extend over 
a distance of aliout three miles, almost without interruption ; on the one hand to the southern part of the saody point, and on the other to 
Morris creek, always leaving free the channels of navigation leading to the harbor. 


Tlie maritime ground on which they are estahlished is partially exposed at low tide. In some cases, however, the plantations are 
constantly submerged, and are at a depth varying from 1 to 6 feet, when the water is lowest. The soil is formed of sand and mud, 
mingled with sea-weed, and the stratum of mud, upon which the oysters rest, is about three inches thick. 

The spectacle presented ou entering the harbor is most curious. As far as the eye can see, the bay is covered with myriads of branches, 
waving in the wiud, or swayed by the force of the currents. It looks as if a forest were submerged, the toi>s of the trees only rising above 
the surface of the water. 

At certain distances on the plantations, large boats are anchored or moored to posts, having a small house built upon them for the 
accommodation of the men appointed to watch the grounds. They are four in number. The wages of these guardians of the property 
amount to about §30 a month, aud are paid by the association of planters. This system of surveillance is indispensable, since most of the 
plantations are at a distance from the harbor, and might be invaded with impunity, especially at night. 

About iive huudred men are employed in planting oysters in the spring, and in gathering them in the proper season to sujjply the 
necessities of commerce. 

The New Haven banks have a very high reputation, and the number of bushels plauted annually is estimated ati 250,000. 

The establishments engaged in the transportation-business are mostly at Fair Haven, a charming village, beautifully situated. Some 
are at Oyster Point, ou the western part of the bay. At Fair Haven the Quine])iae is abont a mile and a half wide,* and is protected from 
the winds on the south and east by a chain of wooded hills, lying iiarallel with its course. It forms a beautiful smooth sheet of water, 
until its entrance into the bay, where the currents are very strong, but not sufficiently so to disturb the plantations established in the 
bed of the river. Some of the dealers, before using the oysters, deposit them for two or three days in the Quinepiac, the saltish water 
giving the flesh a better appearance. 

The establishments of the dealers are ou both sides of the river, and many of them are built partly in the water, in order that the 
fishermen may discharge their cargoes with greater ease. 

The dealers send raw oysters away in small wooden barrels, called kegs, or iu tiu cans, containing about a quarter of a gallon. During 
tlie winter, wooden barrels are considered a sufficient protection ; but in warm weather, and when the mollusks are to be sent to a distance, 
tin boxes are used exclusively. The work of packing is accomplished in the same building where the oysters are shelled, or in one near 
at hand ; and whatever may be the receptacle used, it must contain only a quarter of its capacity of juice. A tinner is employed iu each 
establishment to close the cases, by soldering a small round piece of tiu over the opening. The cases are then iilaced iu a refrigerator, 
where they remain until sent to the railroad. When dispatched to dist.ant cities, those of the West for instance, the cases are inclosed iu 
a box of i)ine wood containing about a dozen. These are tightly jjacked, and a space is left, in the middle of the box for the reception of 
a piece of ice, which preserves the oysters until they reach their destination. 

The number of barrels and boxes or cases required annually, at Fair Haven, is so great that two large manufactories have been 
established for the manufacture of these articles, and they employ about one hundred and fifty persons. That for the making of kegs uses 
steam as a motive power. Everything in the establishment is done by machinery. One machine cuts out the staves, a second the bottom; 
others pierce the holes, and form the plugs. The kegs, at wholesale, bring the following prices: Kegs containing a gallon, ifl 08 a dozen; 
kegs containing a half-gallon, 94 cents a dozen. Tin cases are worth $b 50 a hundred. 

Oysters \\ ithout the shell are di\ ided into two classes — those of large size selling for twenty cents a gallou more than the others. 
They sell at the rate of $3 for half a dozen cases, each of which contains from seventy to one hundred mollusks. 

The Fair Haven oyster-trade in 1857. — A very careful account of the business, as it seems to me, was 
printed in tbe New York Tribtme of January 9, 1857, access to wLich I owe to tlie Liberality of Mr. Tbomas F. DeV^oe, 
of New York. It says that 80 vessels were then bringing oysters to Fair Haven. They were mainly schooners of 
2,000 to 4,500 bushels capacity, and were generally .owned iu Fair Haven, but many additional ones were 
occasionally chartered. The capital invested there was considered little short of $1,000,000. 

Describing the village aud its methods duriug the busy season, this article continues : 

There are the openers, the washers, the measurers, the fillers, the packers, etc., each of which performs only the duties pertaining to 
its own division. At this season of the year (Jauuary) few of the oysters are " plauted", but are generally taken directly from the vessel 
to the places occupied by the openers, who form a large number of operatives, and are composed of females and boys, who earn from |i5 to f9 
per week. An expert, at this branch will open 100 (juarts per day, but the average is imt perhaps over 65 (juarts. The standard i)riee is, 
I think, 2i cents jier quart. This work gives employment to many hundreds, aud much of the work is i)erformcd at jjrivate dwellings, 
thus aliordiug opportunity for labor to many who cannot go into a general workshop. The oysters, as they come from the vessel, are 
heaped upon the center of the room, the operators occupying the wall-sides. Each ijcrson has before him a small desk or platform, some 
3 feet in height, on which is placed, as occasion requires, about half a bushel of oysters, from which the opener takes his supply. On the 
stand is a small anvil, ou which, with a small hammer, the edge of the shell is broken. The operative is provided with a knife and hammer, 
both of which are held iu the right baud at the time the shell is broken, when the latter is dropjied and the knife does its work. Two 
tuljs or pails, of aljout three gallons capacity each, are placed within about 3 feet of the workman, into which he throws, with great 
dexterity and rapidity, the luscious morsel which is to tickle the palate and gratify the taste of some dweller in the far West. The olyect 
of placnig these vessels of reception so far from the operator is to prevent, as much as possible, the deposit of the original liquor with 
the oyster. * « * From the opening-room the oysters are taken to the filling-room, and thence to the packing department. In the 
filling-room, on a platform, are placed a dozeu or more kegs or cans, with the bungs out. The oysters are first poured into a large hopper 
pierced with holes, in which they are thoroughly washed and drained, when they are ready to be deposited in packages. This is done 
by placing a funnel in the aperture of the keg, by one person, while another "measures and pours". This operation is performed with 
great rapidity, two or three men being able to fill some 2,000 kegs iu a day. After depositing the requisite number of "solid oysters", as 
they are termed, in each package, a pipe conveying fresh water is applied, aud the vacant space tilled with nature's beverage — the bungs 
placed and driven home — when it is ready to be shij)ped. 

In hot weather, the article adds, kegs are placed iu boxes surrounded with broken ice. One firm, Eowe & Co., 
used 150,000 kegs a year, costing aljout $15,000. 

The oyster-trade op Fair Haven in 1879. — Except that the use of the little wooden kegs has been 
abandoned for the most part, and that opening is no longer done at tlie homes of the workmen, but wholly at the 
planter's warehouse, the foregoing report presents a good picture of the Fair IIa\'en of to-day. 

* The Fair Haven Iron bridge is just 150 paces in length. — E. I. 


With tlie growtli of so extensive a business, in so confined a space, came the attendant evil of too severe 
competition. About 1S50, therefore, one or two Fair Uaven men of energy conceived tlie idea of talcing their 
M'arehouses to the oysters, instead of bringing the mollusks so far to the salesroom. They therefore opened branch 
houses in Baltimore. Others followed, and the names of Maltby, Mallory, Hemingway, liowe, and their confreres, 
long familiar in Connecticut, and identified then as now with the oyster-business on the Quinepiac, became equally 
well known along the Chesapeake, and, through wide advertisements, over the whole country. All the great 
Baltimore firms of old standing originated in Fair Haven, just as Wellfleet, an obscure village on Cape Cod, 
supplied Portlau<l, Boston, and Providence, with its oystermen. The result was the same in both cases ; the home 
interests retrograded when metropolitan advantages began to be used in competition, and at Fair Haveu considerable 
and rapid changes in methods, as well as the results of trade, have come about. 

All of the foregoing remarks have ai^plied to the imported Chesapeake oysters, which were brought in the 
spring, fattened on the sandbars in the harbor, and taken up in the autumn. Then, as now, Xew Haven harbor 
had no competition in this branch of trade worth speaking of anywhere else in the state; and it may be dismissed, 
so far as the whole of Long Island sound is concerned, with the remark, that many or all of the old dealers continue 
to bring and plant southern oysters, which they open in the fall and winter, but a good proportion confine themselves 
wholly to raising and disposing of natives. 

The Chesapeake oysters brought into this locality in 1879 amounted to about 450,000 bushels. Those from the 
Rappahannock are the favorites for winter use, and are imported almost exclusively; for planting jjurposes, however, 
Ea]ipahannock oysters are undesirable, and those from Fishing Bay, Saint Mary's, and Chrisfield, are preferred. 
But this may be wholly changed in a year or two. The names of the jirincipal dealers appear in the appended 

The New Haaten oyster-fleet. — The vessels employed in this trade are rarely owned in New Haven, as 
used to be the case, but mainly hail from New York. The following is the bst, so far as I have been able to 
complete it — all schooners: 

X:imo. Tons. Name. Tons. Name. Tons. 

William Farren 75 J. F. H. Laugrel — Garry P. Wright — 

Ellio F. Loug 96 Morning Star Sf) Stephen Wood 12 

Mary C. Decker 91 Minnie Gritfin — David C'arll 125 

James Phelps 112 Ella H. Barnes 190 Mary Ellen — 

John Mosser 9.3 R. Masou 51 John A. Cliaftce 130 

Orvetta 128 Wm. H. Van Name 97 Harvest Home — 

The smaller of these schooners are preferred, as they make quicker passages, but the larger will carry for less 
money. Freights, thei'efore, vary with the vessel and the season, from 10 to 18 cents. It is estimated that 3 cents 
will plant the oysters, which makes their cost from 22 to 28 cents a bushel. The selling price will average at least 
75 cents, and i^robably more. 


Early oyster-campaigns on the Quinepiac. — The remainder of my history will apply to the gathering, 
transplanting, and propagating of native oysters in the waters of Long Island sound, opposite New Haven. 

It has already been mentioned, that native beds existed within recent years, if they do not now flourish, in 
every harbor westward of the Thames river, and that many of these old localities, as Stony Creek, Branford, and 
so forth, still furnish large quantities of small oysters for the plantations. None of these localities ever equaled, 
however, the importance of the Quinepiac and its tributaries at New Haven as a natural field of oyster-production, 
while this harbor was equaled, if not surpassed, by several inlets still further west. 

Until lately, however, all this wealth was used up in private consumption, sold in the shore towns as "fancy", 
or mixed in with the southern stock, without being taken into account. The fishing was done maiidy for each man's 
winter-supply, and nobody paid much attention to any regulation of it beyond the close-time in summer. Gradually, 
however, these public river oysters became more rare and coveted. The law was ''off" on the 1st day of November, 
and all the natural beds in the state became open to any person who wished to rake them. In anticipation of this 
date, great preparations were made in the towns along the shore, and even for twenty miles back from the seaside. 
Boats and rakes, and baskets and bags, were put in order. The day before, large numbers of wagons came toward 
the shore from the back country, bringing hundreds of men, with their utensils. Among these were not unfrequently 
seen boats, borne on the rigging of a hay-cart, ready to be launched on the expected morning. It was a time of 
great excitement, and nowhere greater than along the Quinepiac. On the day preceding, farmers flocked into Fair 
Haven from all the surrounding country, and brought with them boats and canoes of antique pattern and ruinous 
aspect. These rustics always met with a riotous welcome from the town-boys, who hated rural competition. They 
were very likely to find their boats, if not cai-efully watched, stolen and hidden before they had a chance to launch 
them, or even temporarily disabled. These things diversified the day and enlivened a community usually very 
peaceful, if not dull. As midnight ajiproached, men dressed in oilskin, and carrying oars, paddles, rakes, and 


tongs, collected all along the shore, where a crowd of women and children assembled to see the fun. Every sort 
of craft was prepared for action. There were sharines, square-enders, skifls, and canoes, and they lined the 
whole margin of the river and harbor on each side in thick array. As the ''witching hour" drew near, the meu 
took their seats with much hilarity, and nerved their arms for a few moments' vigorous work. Xo eye could see the 
great face of the church-clock on the hill, but lanterns glimmered upon a hundred watch-dials, and then were set down, 
as only a coveted minute remained. There was a hush in the merriment along the shore, an instant's calm, and then 
the great bell struck a deep-toned peal. It was like an electric shock. Backs bent to oars, and paddles churned the 
water. From opposite banks navies of boats leaped out and advanced toward one another through the darkness, as 
though bent upon mutual annihilation. " The race was to the swift," and every stroke was the mightiest. Before the 
twelve blows upon the loud bell had ceased their reverberations, the oyster-beds had been reached, tongs were 
scraping the long-rested bottom, and the season's campaign upon the Quinepiac had begun. In a few hours the 
crowd upon some beds would be such that the boats were pressed close together. They were all compelled to move 
along as one, for none could resist the pressure of the multitude. The more thickly covered beds were quickly 
cleaned of their bivalves. The boats were full, the wagons were full, and many had secured what they called their 
" winter's stock" before the day was done, and thousands of bushels were packed away under blankets of sea-weed 
in scores of cellars. Those living on the shore, and regulai'ly engaged in the trade, usually secured the cream of the 
crop. They knew just where to go first; they were better practiced in haudhug boats, rakes, etc.; they formed 
combinations to help one another. That first day was the great day, and often crowds of spectators gathered to 
witness the fun and the frequent quarrels or fights that occurred in the pushing and crowding. By the next day 
the rustic crowd had departed, but the oysters continued to be sought. A week of this sort of attack, however, 
usually sivfficed so thoroughly to clean the bottom, that subsequent raking was of small account. Enough oysters 
always remained, however, to furnish spawn for another year, and the hard scraping prepared a favorable bottom, 
so that there was usually a fair supply the next season. It was not long, however, before the old-fashioued large 
oysters, "as big as a shoe-horne," were all gone, and most of those caught were too small for market. Attention was 
therefore turned to the cultivation of oysters, and as the Chesapeake trade declined, this subject began to receive 
more and more earnest attention, and to arouse an unexpected opposition upon all sides. 

Legal allot^text of plax'tixg-geouxds. — The laws of the state pro\ided for the setting apart of tracts 
of land under water for the planting or cultivating of oysters. The position and amount of these tracts that were to 
be set apart were left to the judgment of the people of each town, who chose a committee of three to electors, 
termed the oyster-ground committee, to act in such matters. Two restrictions, however, were always jealously 
insisted upon : first, that no " natural oyster-beds" should be set apart or '' designated" (the legal term) for purposes 
of planting or cultivation ; second, that no more than two acres should be allotted to each appUcant. AU the early 
designations made in Xew Haven harbor, therefore, were in the shallow districts near and below the mouth of the 
Quinepiac, where no natural beds existed, and the allotments were of various sizes. They were owned by women 
and minors as weU as by voters, and thus it was possible for a citizen who cared to do so, to acquire for his use 
several acres, being those taken out in the name of his wife, his sons, and even of his relatives of remote degrees. 
Moreover, it was permitted to assign these rights and privileges; but any one who applied for grants of laud 
"for the purpose of speculation", was guilty of a misdemeanor. It was thus an easy matter for a man who 
desired to cultivate native oysters extensively, to get under his control a large amount of land, through assignments 
from family and friends; nor, in the great majority of cases, was any money consideration given for such 
assignments. It soon became common, indeed, for an application to be made by "A, B, and others", a score or 
more, perhaps, everybody understanding that while the "others" were actual inhabitants of the town, they had 
no intentiou of making any personal use whatever of the privileges. This, of course, was an evasion of the law, 
which practically amounted to its annulment, yet no one objected, for the spirit of the statute was not considered 
to have been broken ; perhaps it ought to be said, no one objected at first, for within the last few years there has 
been loud murmuring against the largest dealers, who have obtained the control of hundreds of acres, and who have 
found it necessary to secure amendments and additions to the laws in order to make their titles sure and strong. 

Okigix of oystek-plantlng ev Long Islaxd soojd. — It will be understood by this, that> the business of 
catchiug and cultivating native, home-bred oysters at Xew Haven had grown, out of the old haphazard condition, 
into a definite and profitable organization by the time the last decade began. It was not long before all the 
available inshore bottom was occupied, and the lower river and harbor looked like a submerged forest, so thickly 
were planted the boundary stakes of the various beds. Encroachments naturally followed into deeper water, and 
this proceeded, until finally some adventurous spirits went below the light-house and invaded Long I.sland sound. 

Who was the originator and pioneer in this bold move is undecided ; the honor is claimed by several with about 
equal right. At any rate Mr. H. C. Rowe first showed the courage of his opinions enough to take up some hundreds 
of acres outside, in water from 25 to 40 feet in depth, and to begiu there the cultivation of native oysters. 

Incessantly swept by the steady and rapid outflow of the Quinepiac and Housatouic (whose current flows 
eastward), the hard sandy bottom of Long Island sound, off New Haven aud Milford, is kejjt clean throughout a 
considerable area, beyond which is soft, thick mud. There are reefs and rocks scattered about, to be sure, and 


now and then patches of imul ; but over large areas extends only a smooth, unencumbered bottom of sand or gravel. 
This makes this re.niou peculiarly adapted to oyster-culture. 

CoNFLTCTiNO CLAiJis OF PKOPUiETOiiSHiP IN OYSTERGROtTND. — This ncw departure, orunlookcdfor expansion 
of the business, caused considerable excitement as it rapidly developed. It was soon seen, in the first place, that 
the existing statutes, which never had contemplated this sort of thing, would not fit all the exigencies, and after 
the codification of 180(5, alterations and ameuduients rapidly followed one another, in wliich the conflicting interests 
of the deep-water cultivators and the small inshore-owners were sought to be harmonized or guarded against 
opposition. Although recognized bj- law and acknowledged by clear heads since the earliest times, the rights of 
proprietorship under the water, and the notion of property in the growth and iniiu-ovenient ensuing upon ground 
granted and worked for oyster-culture, have hardly yet permeated the public mind and become generally accepted 
facts. Cultivators of all grades found many and many instances in which their staked-out ground was reappropriated, 
or the oysters, upon which they had spent a great deal of time and money, were taken by their neighbors even, who 
angrily resented any imputation of steeling. Not uncommoidy the proceeding was much after the manner of mining 
in a new gold or silver region, such as the Leadville district of Colorado, for instance, where prospectors "located 
claims'' on top of one another, and all went to digging side by side, the first one to strike "mineral" having a 
right to any or all of his rivals' territory, within stipulated limits. 

Having put some oysters on a piece of ground and found them to do well, a man would put in a claim for a 
grant of that piece, and feel greatly abused because it had previously been designated to some man who knew that 
the only proper or safe way was to get legal itossession of the ground first, and make a trial afterwards.* Then number 
one would claim the right to remove his oysters, and in doing so would be sure to be charged by number two with 
taking more than belonged to him. It was easy, too, for unscrupulous persons to dump' seed or large oysters upon 
ground that they pretended not to know was already granted, and then, in taking their stuff away, to rake ui> a 
large addition. 

If a man neglected to take out a title to his ground, or omitted any technicality, somebody stood always ready 
to rob him of all the results of his work in open daylight, with the calmest effrontery. "All that is under water is 
public property," was the maxim of the million, "unless every form of law is observed;" and unless it is watched 
with a shot-gun besides, they might have added. An authentic incident that happened many years ago, will illustrate 
this temper; ami I should not devote so m)ich attention to this matter, were it not that this false philosophy has 
been almost universal ; has proved the greatest stumbling-block to the prosperity of efforts at oyster-culture along 
this whole coast, and is almost ineradicable from the 'longshore mind. 

Two of the veterans of the native oyster-business at this point, were born and spent their boyhood on the shore, 
and early became accustomed to the habits and haunts of all the fishes and mollusks. When they were lads of 
seventeen they sought out a suitable place near the western shore, and gradually accumulated there an artificial bed 
of native oysters, which soon attained a merchantable size. There were several hundreds of bushels, and the young 
nuMi were congratulating themselves as fall approached, that upon the early completion of the engagements, which 
then occupied their time, they would reap a rich harvest from their labor and patience. The time when they intended 
to take them up was only a few days distant, and no harm by storm or otherwise had come to the bed, when one 
morning they went out only to find that every oyster had disappeared ! It was a cruel disappointment, but 
inquiry soon solved the riddle. In the darkness of the preceding night several teams, fully prepared for the work, 
came down from miles and miles back in the country, from away up about Westville and Woodbridge and North 
Orange, and their owners had raked up the whole bed, and carted it away to hide in their cellars. No robbery 
could be plainer, and there was little attempt to secrete it; but there was no redress, and the perpetrators chuckled 
over it as a good joke, without a scruple about the propriety of the thing. Nothing in the sea was private proi)erty. 

Legal ruoTECTioN for oyster-planters. — A vast amount of this sort of stealing and interference with 
proprietary rights granted by the state, was perpetrated and sanctioned by the great majority of the watermen, 
under the plea that the locality in question was "natural ground". Any definition or restriction of this ground 
was impracticable and resisted. The only resource for the man who had invested money in oyster-culture, and 
wanted the opportunity to develop his investment, was to declare that no "natural oj'ster-grouud " existed in New 
Haven harbor, and that designations past and to come were valid, even though the areas so designated might once 
have been natural oyster beds. This checkmated the men who "jumped claims", yet refused to be considered 
thieves ; but it caused a tremendous howl against the movers, in which a large number of persons, having small 
information of the facts, joined, on the general principle of " death to the capitalist". It may have worked discomfort 
in a few individual cases, as all sweeping changes must, but on the whole, considering how nearly exhausted and 
worthless the Quiuepiac fisheries had become, I think it must be regarded as not unjust. At any rate, the 
legislature of 1875 jiassed an amendment exempting Orange, New Haven, and East Haven from the enactment 
prohibiting the setting apart or "designation" of "natural oyster-beds" for purposes of planting or cultivation, 
leaving, however, the law intact for the rest of the state. Had this measure not been passed, systematic cultiva- 

" Perhaps some excuse or explanation of this sore feeling is found in the fact, that the town of Branford allowed a man to apply for 
and try a ciuantity of land a yoar ; at the expira'.iou he could pay for it or " heave it up", as ho thoiij;ht host. This was a purely local 
regulatiou, however. 

5 o 


tion would Lave been vastly hindered, if not altogether killed, by tliieves and malcontents, so far as New Haven 
harbor is concerned. Elsewhere, under different conditions, no such necessity exists as yet, in order to be able to 
prosecute the artificial raising. Instantly upon the passage of this act, there was a rush by everybody for the 
possession of lots in all parts of the Quiuepiac and West rivers. The oyster-committee of the" towns decided that 
each owner of land abutting on the river should possess the right to the bottom opposite his land for 100 feet from 
high-water mark. This was a concession to i)opular feeling, though that opinion had no foundation in law what- 
ever, since the title to riparian real estate in this state terminates at the high-water tide limit. Between these 
boundaries, or "wharf lines", tracts equal in width to each mau's water front, and extending to the channel, were 
allotted to the land owners at $10 to $15 an acre ; but the majority of them were not more than half an acre in 
extent. Lucky receivers of these river-grants at once found themselves able to sell for from $25 to $50, and before 
long there was brisk demand and little sale, at prices ranging from $100 to $150. The deep-water men found this 
river property of great use as a nursery for seed, and as a place to make temporary deposits of surplus stock, etc. 
The Quiuepiac thus began to bristle with boundary stakes, much as the harbor had done for many j-ears pi'evious, 
and many of these river-lots are now valued at more than $500. 

In 1877 a very fall set was obtained everywhere in the river and harbor ; in 1878, however, there was almost a 
total dearth 5 but 1879 again saw a ijartial set. 


Orange or West Haven. — Situated on the western shore, the township of Orange (West Haven) owns the 
western half of the harbor of New Haven. These shores have always been populous with oysters, which were 
raked as public property. If any attempts at cultivation were made until within a few years, they were desultory 
and of small account. When the general oyster-statutes were passed. Orange at once acted under them, but 
delegated to its selectmen the powers of an oyster-committee instead of erecting a second board, as was done in all 
the other towns. This arrangement has been found to work very well. The first designation was made in April, 
ISGl, and all the suitable ground in West river and in the harbor was soon set apart, amounting to about 45 acres. 
Mr. Samuel Smith, chairman of the selectmen, tells me that nothing was charged for this ground, but that it was 
put under taxation, and now pays on valuations running from $50 to $500. When, four years ago, the experiment of 
deep-water cultivation was begun, Orange issued desiguations, almost wholly to citizens of other towns, for about 
2,450 acres, at $1 an acre. It is impossible to come nearer than this to the town's revenue from its oyster-lots, 
since no separate account is published by the treasurer. The deep-water area is taxed at a merely nominal rate at 

Only two producers of any consequence now reside in West Haven. The small allotments in West river which 
they possess, are nearly ruined by the drifting of sediment, and the total product of the river last year would hardly 
exceed 500 bushels. One i)lanter told me he had had 12 acres in one lot in the harbor spoiled by becoming 
covered with mud. 

New Haven.— Between Orange and East Haven lies New Haven, priding herself upon her harbor. She had 
begun to set apart oyster-planting ground for the use of her citizens. Before long, however, it was claimed that 
she was allotting spaces of bottom over which she had no jurisdiction. This brought on suits at law and aroused 
inquiry. The forgotten fact was then brought to light, that in 1803 a joint commission (of which Noah Webster, 
the lexicographer, was a member) determined the boundary between New Haven and East Haven to be, in general 
terms, the ship-channel down the Quinei)iac and down the harbor. This was ratified by the general assembly. A 
few years later some disputes caused the appointment of a commission to settle upon the boundary between New 
Haven and Orange. This was reported to be the middle of West river, and thence eastward to the ship-channel 
in the harbor. It seems to have been the intention of this commission that this line should intersect and terminate 
at the East Haven line, but by some error this was not quite done. The i-ccommendations of this commission were 
adopted by the legislature and decreed to be the boundary between the two towns. This left to New Haven only 
the waters just about her wharves and a very narrow, wedge-shaped strip down the channel. When, by later laws, 
it was decided what of the deeper ground of the sound should be " designated " by East Haven and Orange, 
respectively. New Haven was allowed a strip 1,500 feet wide, running southward into the sound from a line drawn 
from the old light-house to Savin rock. 

Although these boundaries were settled nearly a century ago, the New Haven oyster-committee not long ago 
designated ground in Orange waters, where they had no right to. Unscrupulous persons at once took possession, 
and in some cases refused to yield to the legal owners deriving their desiguations jiroperly. Hence expensive suits 
and much personal animosity has arisen. Many lessees, however, learning their mistake in time, took out new 
deeds from the rightful authorities, and so saved themselves. But this was done at additional expense, for New 
Haven had never charged anything for her privileges. 



Laws relating to the fisheries foe shellfish. — Having thus briefly reviewed the circumstances and 
growth of the oyster-biisiuess of New Haven and its vicinities ; tonelied upon the decline of the Virginia tnuU^. 
and the begiiiuing of organized cultivation of the native stock ; noted the drawbacks and opposition with which 
this had to contend, and the extraordinary jealousy which shows itself among the river-men and producers, it is 
a proper time in which to introduce a careful digest of the state-laws pertaining to tbe oyster-business, an 
examination of wliich will reveal the many reasons why specific acts for the protection of this interest were deemed 
needful from time to time. 

The oyster-statutes of Connecticut, in force in 1880, were as follows: 

Chapter IV. Fisheuies. — Part I. Fisheries in tide-water and rivers. — Art. I. Fisheries for shellfish. 

Section 1. Describes the particular territory witbiu wliicli the selectmen of East H.aven may "designate" or grant ground for the 
planting and cnUivation of oysters ; describes within what other waters the oyster-committee of the same town may designate ; and gives 
to the selectmen of Orange all the powers of an oyster-committee. 

Sec. 2. Provides that any other town except East Haven and Orange may appoint a committee of not more than five electors, which 
shall designate to applicants suitable places in the navigable waters of the town for planting or cultivating oysters, clams, or nnissels. 

Sec. 3. Any person desiring to plant or cultivate oysters, clams, or mussels may apply in writing for a suitable place, and such 
committee or selectmen may make such designation, not exceeding two acres in extent, after the applicant has proved that the ground has 
not previously been set ott' for this purpose ; that the ground is within town limits ; and that fees dne to the town for this designation 
have been deposited. Town clerks may grant the required certificates, and town treasurers receipt for payments of fees. Violations of 
this act by members of town conunittees .are H.aving received his designation, the aiijilicant must ni.arlc the bonndarios of 
his ground by buoys or stakes, set at suitable distances, and labeled with the name or initials of the owner ; and until then he shall not be 
permitted to catch oysters upon the grountl. Designations may be made to several in common. 

Sec. 4. Every person who shall plant or cultivate oysters, clams, or mussels in any such place shall own them, and also all other 
oysters, clams, or mussels in such place, and have the exclusive right of taking up and disposing of them, and of using such place for the 
purpose of planting or cultivating oys^e^s, clams, or mussels therein, which shall be transferrable by written assignment, but nothing 
herein contained shall affect the rights of any owner of lands in which there may be s.alt-water creeks or inlets, or which may be opposite 
or contiguous to such navigable waters ; nor the existing by-laws of any city, town, or borough ; nor authorize any committee or selectmen 
to designate, or any person to mark, stake out, or inclose any natural oyster-bed (except in New Haven harbor and its tributaries, and for 
a distance not exceeding two miles from the mouth of said harbor), or infringe the free navigation of said waters, or interfere with the 
drawing of seines in any place established and customarily used for seine-fishing. 

Sec. 5. Any person procuring oyster-ground "for the purpose of assigning rights which he may acquire for profit or speculation", shall 
be fined $50. 

Sec. 6. Amended and replaced by subsequent legislation, adds to the powers of the New Haven committee the power to designate 
ground for oyster-planting and cultivation in the waters of Long Island sound, which lie between East Haven and a line parallel to its 
boundary and 500 yards to the westward ; and the selectmen of Orange may design.ate between this tract and a line due south from Savin 
rock, even though such ground " may have been natural oyster-beds". And the committee's previous designations in this territory are 
hereby confirmed. 

Sec. 7. Enjoins that all designations of oyster-ground, when made, shall be exactly recorded in the office of the town clerk, together 
•with all descriptions and assignments; "and all attested copies of such applications, designations, and assignments, with a certificate 
that they have been recorded, shall be conclusive evidence of the fact of such record, and prima facie evidence of the validity of such 
application, designation, and assigunieut." 

Sec 8. Any owner who has lost the evidences of title to oyster-ground, after having filed them with the town clerk, may apjily to the 
town committee, and if he satisfies them of his claim, he may receive from them a new title ; but there are heavy penalties for fraud under 
this provision. In case of boundaries being lost, or when the committee authorized to stake out oyster-grounds have described the 
boundaries incorrectly, the superior court, as a court of equity, may, upon petition, order such uncertaiu boundaries to I)C re-established, 
according to prescribed methods, except in cases where a niaj) of the ground has been filed with the town clerk, in which ease uncertain 
bounds are to be established by a surveyor .appointed by .a judge of the superior court. 

Sec 9. When there are more than thirty designations in any one town the selectmen shall procure a map of the district. 

Sec 10. An owner desiring to dam or lock an inlet or salt-water creek for the purpose of cultivating oysters therein, the selectmen 
shall visit the spot and report upon the ])ropriety of the request at a meeting of the town ; if the meeting approves, the owner may build 
a dam, etc., as indicated by the selectmen, and maintain it during the pleasure of the general assembly. 

Sec 11. When any natural oyster-bed is set apart, contrary to law, the superior court in the same county has power to revoke 
the designation, if it deems it best ; but must give the owner time to remove any oysters and improvements on the property. 

Secs. 12 and 13. Conferred jirivileges ujion Guilford which that town declined to ratify. 

Sec 14. No person, except the authorized committee or selectmen, shall stake out or inclose any oyster-grounds in navigable 
■waters, unless such person shall own this ground under the provisions of this chapter; penalty, fine not to exceed $50. 

Sec 1.5. Any member of a committee who shall desiguiite ground for oyster-cidtiv.atiou upon oyster-beds, or in any other 
place where it is prohibitetl by law, shall forfeit from .$25 to $200, excepting in Orange, New Haven, and East Haven. 

Sec 1R. Any other person than the owner, who shall vmlawfully remove any shells or shellfish from a place designated for oyster- 
planting, shall be fined not exceeding .$300, or imprisoned not more than one year; but if the ofiense be committed at night, heavier 
penalties are decreed. 

Sec 17. Forbids taking any oysters or oyster-shells from the Thames river between March 1 and Novemlier I. 

Sec 18. Every person who shall willfully injure .any inclosure legally designated for oy.ster-planting, remove any buoys or stakes, 
injure any oysters, remove any shells from such inclosure, or willfully deposit mud there, shall be subject to heavy penalties, after trial 
before a justice of the peace, with right of appeal to the superior court. 

Sec 19. Provides penalties for injury to dams or locks of any oysler-iiond. 


Sec. 20. Prohibits taking "shells or shellfish" hetweeu sunset and sunrise, from any navigable waters of the state (except clams in 
Branfonl harbor from April to October), under fine of |50 to .flOO, or imprisonment, or both. 

Sec. 21. Prohibits the taking of shellfish, or the nse of spears for taking fish, within any area designated for oyster-planting, 
within two miles of the shores of Branford or East Haven; penalty, fine of from |7 to §100, or imprisonment. 

Sec. 22. Prohibits the use of dredges in New Haven harbor west of a line from Farm river to Scotch cap, and north of a line from 
Scotch cap to Southwest ledge, and then westerly to Hines' place in Orange ; prohibits taking shellfish in Mon-is creek, except on or 
adjacent to one's own land ; and prohibits dredging hi/ steam anywhere away from upon one's own ground, more than two days in the week, 
under heavy penalties, which may be imposed by a justice of the peace, subject to an appeal to the superior court. Dredging on one's 
own ground is allowed, however, in East Haven waters to the owners of grouud southerly of a line drawn from The Chimneys, through 
Quixe's ledge and Adam's fall, until it intersects a line drawn from the old light-house to Savin rock. 

Sec. 23. All sherift's and constables shall, and any other persou may, seize any boat or vessel illegally used in dredging, with its 
tackle, apparel, and furniture, wherever found, within one year thereafter; and, if condemned, the boat, etc., shall be sold after the 
prescribed form. 

Sec. 24. When there shall bo found in any waters of this state, on board any boat or vessel, illegally used under the provisions of 
this chapter, any dredge or shells ami shellfish, it shall he prima fade evidence that said boat or vessel was used contrary to the provisions 
of said chapter. 

Sec. 25. No person shall gather shells or shellfish in any waters of this state for himself or his employer, unless he and his employer 
are at that time, and have been for six mouths previous, actual inhabitants of the state. 

Sec. 26. Refers to lobsters. 

Laws op 1875. — Since the revision of the statutes in 1875, the following additional laws have been enacted : 

March 16, 1878. — When oysters have been planted on any ground legally designated, and doubt arises as to the jurisdiction of 
neighboring towns over it, prosecutions against the owner may be made in either of the three towns nearest. 

MARCir 27, 1878. — No committee or selectmen of any town shall designate, and no persou shall mark, stake out, or inclose for the 
cultivation of oysters, clams, or mussels, any natural clam-bed. 

March 27, 1878. — No persou shall take or carry away from Branford or Farm rivers any oyster-shells or seed-oysters, for the purpose 
of planting them on private beds ; or more than two bushels of oysters in a single day ; or shall nse tongs for taking oysters there between 
May 1 and October 1 ; under penalty of forfeiting |14 before a justice of the peace in Branford or East Haven, with a right of appeal to 
the superior court. 

Navigation laws. — There are two clauses in the state's navigation laws (chap, viii) which concern oysters, 
as follows : 

Sec. 19. Every person who shall deposit any substance except oyster-shells in the harbors of New Haven, Bridgeport, and Stamford, 
shall be fined from $50 to $500, or imprisoned, or both. 

Sec. 20. Gives the city court or a justice of the peace jurisdiction in such cases. 

Remedying weak titles. — By a series of -amendments and resolutions the legislature has " healed" many 
weak titles to oyster-ground, by enacting that designations of ground for planting and cultivating oysters, clams, 
or mussels shall be valid and confirmed, including : 

I. All granted informally under the provisions of chap. 3, sec. viii, although the owners may have lost their evidences of title after 
having filed the same with the town clerk (July 17, 1875). 

II. All in which the applicant may be a married women or a minor (March 16, 1878). 

HI. All in which the ajiplication was made for the purpose of transferring the privileges ; and all such transfers are confirmed (March 
27, 1878). 

IV. All designations for "planting", where "cultivation" is not mentioned. 

v. AH designations of ground described as containing not over two acres to each applicant, exclusive of muddy or rocky bottom, 
although the total quantity of grouud embraced in the designation may be more than two acres to each applicant (March 27, 1878). 

VI. All designations previous to March, 1879, by the town of East Haven, between its westerly boundary and a lino drawn due south 
from the center of the mouth of East Haven river. 

Establishment of a state commission for locating oyster-grounds. — Finally, some months subsequent 
to the compilation of the previous legal information, the legislature of 1881 passed an act, which is given herewith 
in full, which reconstructs the methods hitherto in vogue, and reads as follows: 

AX ACT establialiing a state commission for tho designation of oyster-grounds. 

General Assembly, Januakt session, A. D. 1881. 

Be it enacUd hy the Senate and Home of Representatives, in General AssemUy convened: 

Section 1. The state shall exercise exclusive jurisdiction and control over all shellfisherics which are located in that area of the 
state which is within that part of Long Island sound and its tributaries, bounded westerly and southerly by the state of New York, 
easterly by the state of Rhode Island, and northerly by a line following the coasts of the state at high water, which shall cross all its 
bays, rivers, creeks, and inlets at such places nearest Long Island sound as are within and between points on opposite shores, from one of 
which objects and what is done can be discerned by the naked eye upon the other. And all shellfisherics not within said area shall be and 
remain within the jurisdiction and control of the towns in which they are located, under the same laws and regulations and through the 
same selectmen and oyster-committees as heretofore, except that such selectmen and committees shall hereafter only act as the agents of 
their respective towns. If a difference shall arise between any town and the commissioners as hereinafter provided for, as to the boundary 
Hue between said town and the area so to bo mapped, said town, by its selectmen, nuiy bring its petition to the superior court for the 
county within which said town is situated, to determine said lioundary line, and said c(mrt, upon reasonable notice to the ]>arties, shall 
hear said petition an<l appoint a counnittee to ascertain the facts in such case and report the same to said court, and said court shall 
thereupon make such ordfr as mdy be pi'Opef in the premises. 


Sec. 2. Tho three fish-commissioners of the state now in office, and their successors, shall also be and constitute a board of commissioners 
of sheiltisheries, and be empowered to make or cause to be made a survey and map of all the grounds within the said area in Lonj; Island 
sound, which have been or may be designated for the planting or cultivation of shellfish ; shall ascertain the ownership thereof, and how 
much of the same is actually in use for said purposes ; they shall also cause a survey of all tho natural oyster-beds in said area, and shall 
locate and delineate the same on said map, not to exceed $2,500 in cost, and shall report to the next session of the legislature a plan for 
an equitable taxation of the property in said fisheries, and make an annual report of tho state and condition of said fisheries to the 
legislature, and the said commissioners shall be empowered to appoint and employ a clerk of and for said board, and they shall each give 
a bond for the faithful performance of their duties, and for the payment to the state treasurer of all money that may come into their hands 
under this act, in the sum of two thousand dollars. 

Sue. 3. The said commissioners shall also bo empowered, in the name and in behalf of the state, to grant by written instruments, for 
the purpose of planting and cultivating shellfish, perpetual franchises in such undesignated grounds within said area as are not, and for 
ten years have not been, natural clam or oyster-beds, whenever application in writing is made to them through their clerk, by any ])ersmi 
or persons who have resided in the state not less than one year next preceding the date of said application. The said application and the 
said grant shall be in manner and form as shall be approved by the chief justice of the state, and all such grants may be assigned 
to any person or persons who are or have been residents of the state for not less than one year next preceding such assignment, 
by a written assignment, in manner and form a])proved by said chief justice ; and the said corauussiouers shall keep books of record and 
record all such grants and assignments therein, and the same shall also be recorded in the town clerk's otflce in the town bounded on Long 
Island sound, within the meridian boundary lines of which said grounds are located, if lines were run due south from present termini of 
town lines. 

Sec. 4. When any such application is filed with the clerk of said commissioners, he shall note on the same the date of its reception, 
and shall cause a written notice, stating the name and residence of the applicant, the date of filing the api^lication, the location, area, and 
description ot the ground applied for, to be posted in tho office of the town clerk of the town bounded on the said Loug Island sound, within the 
meridian boundary lines of which said grounds are located, where such notice shall remain posted for twenty days. Any person or jjcrsons 
objecting to the granting of the grounds applied for, iw aforesaid, may tile a written notice with the town clerk, stating the grounds of 
his or their objections, upon the payment to said town clerk of the snm of twenty-five cents, and at the end of said twenty days the town 
clerk shall forward all snch written objections to the clerk of said commissioners; and in case such objections are so filed and forwarded, 
the said commissioners, or a majority, shall, upon ten days' notice in writing, mailed or personally delivered to all the parties in interest, 
hear and pass upon such objections at the town in which such grounds are located as aforesaid, and if such objections are not sustained 
and the area of ground is not, in the opinion of the comuiissiouers, of unreasonable extent, they may, for the actual cost of surveying and 
ni.apping of such grounds, and the further consideration of one dollar per acre paid to the said commissioners, to be by them paid over to 
the treasurer of the state, grant a perpetual franchise for the planting and cultivating shellfish in such grounds, or in any part of the 
same, in the manner aforesaid, and when no objections are made such grants may be made for the considerations hereinbefore named. At 
all hearings authorized by this act the said commissioners may, by themselves or their clerks, subpa?ua witnesses and administer oaths as 
in courts of law. 

Sec. 5. The said commissioners shall, previous to the delivery of any instrument conveying the right to plant and cultivate shellfish 
on any of said grounds, make or cause to be made a survey of the same, and shall locate and delineate the same, or cause it be located and 
delineated upon the map aforesaid, and upon receipt of said instrument of conveyance the grantee shall at once cause the grounds therein 
conveyed to be plainly marked out by stakes, buoys, ranges, or monuments, which stakes and buoys shall be continued by the said grantee 
and bis legal re])rcscntatives, and the light to use and occupy said ground for said pur])0ses shall be and remain in said grantee and his 
legal representatives: Provided, That if the grantee or holder of said grounds does not actually use and occupy the same for the purposes 
named, in good faith, within five years after the time of receiving such grant, the said commissioners shall petition the superior court of 
the county having jurisaietion over the said grounds, to appoint a coumiittee to inquire andreport to said court as tothe use and occniiancy 
of said grounds, in good faith, and said court shall in such case appoint such connnittee, who, after twelve days' notice to petitioners and 
respondents, shall hear such petition aud report the facts thereon to said court, and if it .shall appear that said grounds are not used and 
occupied in good faith for the purpose of planting or cultivating shellfish, the said conrt may order that said grounds revert to the state, 
and that all stakes and buoys marking the same be removed, the costs in said petition to be paid at the discretion of the court. 

Sec. 6. When, after the occupancy and cultivation of any grounds designated as aforesaid, by the grantee or his legal representatives, 
it shall appear to said commissioners that said grounds are not suited for the planting or cultivation of oysters, said grantee, upon receiving 
a certificate to that efl'ect from said conmiissiouers, may surrender the same, or any part thereof. Not less than one hundred acres to the 
state, by an instrimient of reh-ase of all his right and title thereto, and sh.all, on delivery of such instrument to the said conimis.sioner.s, 
receive their certificate of said release of said grounds, the location and number of acres described therein, which shall be filed with the 
state treasurer, who shall pay to the holder the sum of one d(dlar for every acre of ground described in said release, where said sum 
been paid therefor to the state. And the said release shall be recorded by the said commissioners in their record-books, and in the town 
clerks' office in the town adjacent to and within the meridian boundary lines of which said grounds are located. 

Sec. 7. Said commissioners shall provide, in addition to the general map of said grounds, sectional maps, comprising all grounds 
located within the meridian boundary lines of the several towns on the shores of the state, which maps shall be lodged in tho town 
clerk's office of the said respective towns ; and said commissioners shall also provide and lodge with said town clerks blank api)lications for 
such grounds and record-books for recording conveyances of the same, and all conveyances of such grounds and assignments, reversion, 
and releases of the same shall be recorded in the books of said commissioners, and in the town clerks' offices in the towns adjacent to and 
withiu the meridian boundary lines of which said grounds are located, in such books as are provided by said conmiissiouers, subject to 
legal fees for such recording, and the cost of all such maps, blank-books, surveys, and all other expenses necessary for the carrying out tho 
provisions of this act, shall be audited by the comptroller and paid for by t he treasurer of the state, and the said commissioners shall each 
receive for their services five dollars per day for the time they are actually emi)loyed, as provided for ii, this act ; their accounts for such 
service to be audited by the com])troller aud paid by the treasurer of the state. 

Sec. 8. All designations, assignments, and transfers of ground in Loug Island sound heretofore made for the purpose of planting or 
cultivating oysters, clams, or mus.sels, excepting natural oyster-, clam-, or mussel-beds, are hereby validated and confirmed. 

Sec 9. All the provisions of the statutes of this state relating to the planting, cultivating, working, and protecting shellfishcries, 
upon grounds heretofore designated under said laws, except as provided for in section eight of this act, and as are rot inconsistent with 
this act, are hereby continued and made applicable to such designations as may be made under the provisions of this act. 

Sec. 10. When it shall be shown to the satisfaction of the said commissioners that any natural oyster- or clam-bed has been designated 
by them to any person or persons, the said commissioners shall petition the superior court of the county having jurisdiction over the said 
grounds, to appoint a committee to inquire and report to the said court the facts as to such grounds, and said court shall, in such case, 


appoint sncb committee, who, after twelve days' notice to the petitioners and respondents, shall hear such petition, and report the facts 
thereon to said court; and if it shall appear that any natural oyster- or clam-beds, or any part thereof, have been so designated, the said 
court may order that said grounds may revert to the state, after a reasonable time for the claimant of the same to remove any shelltish 
be may have planted or cultivated thereon in good faith, and said court may further order that all stakes and buoys marking the same be 
removed, the costs in said petition to be taxed at the discretion of the court. 

Sec. 11. Any commissioner ■who shall knowingly grant to any person or jiersous a franchise, as hereinbefore provided, in any natural 
oyster-bed, or clam-bed, shall be subject to a fine of not less than one hundred dollars, nor more than five hundred dollars, and if such 
franchise is granted the grant shall be void, and all moneys paid thereon shall be forfeited to the state ; and said commissioners shall in no 
case grant to any person or persons a right to plant or cultivate shellfish which shall interfere with any established right of fishing, and 
if any such grant is made the same shall be void. 

Sec. 12. All acts and parts of acts inconsistent herewith are hereby repealed, but this act shall affect no suit now pending. 

Town laws op East Haven : Taxation. — It will be observed that the first section of the old law gave 
the right to grant land in East Haven to both the selectmen and the oyster-committee. The former had long been 
accustomed to set apart oyster-ground, and retained this privilege for the river and upper shores, while the committee 
designated in deep water. In a special meeting of the town of East Ha\en, held in September, 1865, to ratify the 
late legislature's enactments, an oyster-committee of five was appointed; and it was 

Voted, That the committee aforesaid sliall stake out the grounds aforesaid in squares of one acre each (where the nature and extent 
of the said grounds will permit), and employ a surveyor to survey and make a map of the same, and lodge it with the town clerk of said 

Volcd, That each person who makes application to the committee aforesaid * » » and receives from them a written description 
of gromid set apart to them, shall * * * pay to the said town clerk at the rate of flO per acre, which money is to be used in paying 
the expenses incurred in making out the aforesaid survey. 

Voted, That the town clerk pay the surplus, if any, into the treasury of the town. 

The succeeding spring, in order to give the young oysters in the river a chance to get some growth, all raking 
was prohibited "from April 9, 186G, to March 9, 1867". 

The reason why this area was restricted to one acre, was in order that there might be enough to go around ; 
applicants were so numerous, at first, that designations were allotted literally by drawing the number of the 
designation from a dai'k box. The favorite locality was Morris cove. For all the land set apart by the selectmen, 
$10 or more an acre was received; when apidication was made for grants outside, the oyster-committee thought 
the experiment so foolish that they were ashamed to ask more than $ 1. In addition to this, there was a charge of 
90 cents for making and recording each deed, besides (until late years) a 50-cent revenue stamp on each document, 
and a second one in case of a transfer. About 750 acres were designated at $10 an acre, and about 1,500 acres at 
$1. In all, East Haven had granted 2,523 acres of oyster-ground up to January 20, J880. My authority is the 
Hon. G. A, Bray, who has had ofiScial charge of these matters for many years in that town. To this may be added 
650 acres set apart but not yet paid for. Since 1877 East Haven has taxed these grants, under the head of 
" personal property ", at valuations of $5, $10, and occasionally more, per acre, the rate last year being 12 mills on 
the dollar. The reports of the treasurer show that East Haven has derived the following satisfactory revenue from 
the sale of her oyster -culture privileges : 

Previous to 1867 $3,325 00 

In 1867 222 Oo 

In 1868 300 00 

In 1869 197 50 

In 1871 97 50 

In 1872 1,554 00 

In 1873 68 00 

In 1874 1220 00 

In 1875 430 00 

In 1876 ■- 883 95 

In 1877 479 85 

Inl878 79 90 

Inl879 569 75 

Total 8,427 45 

The expenses of surveys, etc., used up about one-haLf of this ; the other half went to the treasury. All the $1 
designations have been "net" to the town. 

Eesolutions of the legislature in 1879. — These and other provisions and alterations of the oyster-laws 
have caused much discussion, and showed satisfactorily the existence of much discontent, though no one seems able to 
propose a better arrangement. The best opinion, I believe, is that few changes are de-sirable. In compliance 
with the wishes of the oyster-interest of the state, the legislature of 1879 passed the following resolutions : 

Whereas, the raising of oysters from the spawn in the deep waters of this state, in Long Island sound, has proved by experience to be 
a success ; 

Whereas, there is an immense tract of available oyster-ground between the town boundaries and the southerly boundaries of the 
Btate, which cannot at present be used, because the state has granted no authority to designate it ; 

Whereas, these grounds can be disposed of so as to bring a large sum into the treasury of the state: Therefore, 

liesolvcd 1)1/ this asuenMn, That a commission, consisting of three persons, be appointed by the governor to prepare a plan, and report 
to the next session of the general assembly, lor the gradual disposal of the grounds in the waters of this state which are suitable for the 
cultivation of oysters. Said commission shall examine all existing .statutes relating to oyster-grounds and town lines in the sound, all 
customs and by-laws in dili'erent parts of the state, and such other matters as pertain to oyster-lisheries, so that the system devised shall 
be of general application, and enable the state to dispose of the franchise of the grounds to the best advantage. 


The commissioners appointed were : the Hon. Robert Coit of Kew London (chairman), the Hon. H. B. Graves 
of Litchfield, and the Hon. Charles W. Bell of Norwalk. They held meetings during the autumn of 1879, in various 
shore towns, which were well attended by the oyster-growers, and to their report is probably due the new law passed 
in January, 1881, and already quoted, in respect to the designation of grounds by the state. 

Such are the circumstances under which the oystermen in New Haven harbor and the contiguous sound are 
able to do business. 


Selection of oyster-ground. — As I have already remarked, the cultivation of native oysters has grown 
up within comparatively recent years, to supply the altered conditions of the business and till the demand for the 
home-bred stock. It soon expanded beyond the limits of shallow water, until now the hopes of all cultivators of 
anj' consequence are centered upon the deep-water ground, to which the inshore tracts are held as subsidiary, being 
largely used only as nurseries wherein to grow seed for the Qutside beds. 

The process by which a man secures a large quantity of land outside has been described. It is thought hardly 
worth trying unless at least 50 acres are obtained, and many of the oyster-farmers have more than 100. These 
large tracts, however, are not always in one piece, though the effort is to get as much together as possible. He 
obtains the position of his ground, as near as he can, by ranges on the neighboring shores, as described in his leases, 
and places buoys to mark his boundaries. Then he places other buoys within, so as to divide his property up into 
squares an acre or so in size. In this way he knows where he is as he proceeds in his labors. Having done this, 
he is ready to begin his active preparations to found an oyster-colony. 

The bottom of the sound opposite New Haven, as I have said, is much of it smooth, hard sand, with occasional 
little patches of mud, but with few rocks. The depth varies from 25 to 40 feet. This area is almost totally void of 
life, and no oysters whatever were ever found there, except after some "dumps" were made outside the light-house, 
by the dredging boats which had been cleaning out the channel and deposited many living oysters along with the 
other dredgings in the offing. These dumps very soon became, in this way, oyster-beds, supplying a considerable 
quantity of seed, which was public property, to be had for the dredging and taking their share in the incessant 
controversies as bones of contention. 

Preparation op a deep-wateb oyster-pabm. — When a cultivator begins the preparation of a deep-water 
farm, his first act is to scatter over it, in t-he s])riug (about May), a quantity of full-sized, healthy native oysters, 
which he calls "spawners". The amount of these that he scatters depends on his circumstances; from 30 to 50 
bushels to the acre is considered a fair allowance here, I believe. The rule is, 1 bushel of spawners to 10 bushels 
of cultch. He now waits until early in July (from the 5th to the 15th is considered the most favorable time), 
when he thinks his spawners must be ready to emit their spat. He then employs all his sloops, and hires extra 
vessels and men, to take down to the harbor the tons of shells he has been saving up all winter, and distribute them 
broadcast over the whole tract of land he proposes to improve that year. These shells are clean, and fall right 
alongside of the mother-oysters previously deposited. The chances are fair for catching of spawn. Sometimes the 
same plan is pursued with seed that has grown sparingly upon a piece of ground; or young oysters are scattered 
as spawners, and the owner waits until the next season before he shells the tract. Sometimes there must be. a 
preparation of the ground, before any operations can be begun upon it, by elaborate dredging or otherwise. Within 
the harbor, for instance, considerable muddy bottom has been utilized by first paving it with coarse beach-sand. 
No spot where there is not a swift current, is considered worth this trouble. The proper amount is 200 tons of 
sand to the acre, which can be spread at the rate of five sharpie-loads a day, at no great expense. The sand forms 
a crust upon the mud firm enough to keei) the oyster from sinking, and it need not be renewed more than once in 
five years. 

Expense of an oyster-farm. — In either case, therefore, the planter's expense has not been enormous. I 
present herewith two statements of the outlay under the oiierations outlined above, which are as follows: 

No. 1. — Fifty acres. 

2,000 bushels spawners, at 30 cents $600 00 

15,000 bushels shells, at 3 ceuts 450 00 

Planting 15,000 bushels shells, at 4 cents 600 00 

1.6D0 00 
Xo. 2. — Sixty acres. 

2,000 bushels of spawners, at 56J cents |1,130 00 

17,000 bushels of shells, .at 4 cents 680 00 

4,453 bushels Bridgeport seed, at 10 cents 445 30 

2,255 30 


In a third case Captain George H. Townseud gave me a statement of the expenses of starting a farm of 25 acres 
off the moutli of East Haven river. Tbis was a more elaborate arrangement, but on the other hand was accomplished, 
through a variety of favorable conditions, cheaper than would have been possible with ground otherwise situated: 

2,000 bushels sm.all river oysters, at 25 cents $500 00 

Spreading same and stalling, at 5 cents 100 00 

600 busliels dredged seed, at 40 cents 240 00 

10,000 bushels of shells, put down at 4 cents 400 00 

1,240 00 

I think it would not be unfair to average the cost of securing, surveying, and preparing the deep-water beds at 
about SiO an acre, or about $4,000 for 100 acres. To this must be added about $2 an acre for ground-surveys, 
buoys, anchors, etc. But now that he has got his set everywhere upon this 50 acres of shells, the planter's anxieties 
have just begun. The infant mollusk, when first it takes hold upon the stool, the merest speck upon the surface of 
the white shell, is exceedingly tender. The chances in its favor in the race against its numberless adversaries are 
extremely few, almost as few as befriended the egg when first it left the protection of the mother-mantle. The 
longer it lives the better are its chances, but the tender age lasts all through the autumn and until it has attained 
the size of a quarter-dollar piece; after that it will withstand ordinary discouragements. It often happens, therefore, 
that the "splendid set" proves a delusion, and Christmas sees the boasted bed a barren waste. The cultivator finds 
his work as risky as mining. "You can't see into the water," he says; and the miner quotes back his proverb: 
" You can't see into the ground." A sufQcient cause may usually be assigned for the death of large districts of 
infant oysters which appeared to get a good start. Starvation is probably the true explanation. Some evil current 
bore away from them the necessary food. In other cases specific causes, the most potent of which are storms, can 
be pointed out. 

Vicissitudes and losses of oy.ster-planting. — In the fall, just when the young oyster-beds are in their 
most delicate condition, occur the most destructive gales that afflict tlie Connecticut coast. They blow from the 
southwest, and if, as occasionally happens, they follow a stiff southeaster, producing a cross-sea of the worst 
character. The water is thrown into a turmoil to a depth, in some cases, of four or five fathoms, and everywhere 
between that and the beach the oyster-beds are torn to pieces, all boundaries are dissolved, and windrows of oysters, 
containing thousands of bushels, are cast up along the whole extent of the beach. Although so great a disaster 
as this is rare, it does occasionally happen, and hardly a winter passes without more or less shifting of beds or other 
damage by tempest. The burying of beds under drifted sand is more uncommon ofl' Xew Haven than easterly; 
but in the harbor, where the bottom is soft, mud is often carried upon the beds to such an extent as to smother, if 
not wholly to hide, the oyster. All that part of the harbor near the mouth of West river is so liable to this accident 
that oystermen have abandoned that district altogether. It is believed by many that the beds in the sound, in 
water more than twenty-five feet deej), ai-e safe from disturbance from gales; but others decline to put their faith 
in any depth thus far planted. Frequently oysters cast up by storms, if attended to immediately, can be saved 
and replanted with profit. 

Management of the oystek-faem.— Having secured a colony of young oysters upon the stools which have 
been laid down for them, they are left alone until they attain the age of three, four, or five years, according to their 
thrift and the trade for which they are designed, by the end of which time they have reached a large size and 
degree of fatness, if the season has been favorable. If, as is largely done by those planters who live at Oyster 
point, the oysters are to be sold as seed to Providence river or other planters, they are taken up when only one or 
two years old. Not a great quantity of this seed was so disposed of last year— not over 20,000 bushels, I should say. 
It is not considered, as a rule, so profitable as to wait for the maturity of the stock. 

Experiences of Captain Townsend in oyster-planting.— In no way, probably, could I better illustrate 
the series of slow experiments and expensive trials by which the more intelligent of the New Haven planters have 
succeeded so far as they have done, than by giving an abstract of a diary kept for several years by one of the most 
energetic of these experimenters, Capt. Chas. H. Townsend. I am able to avail myself of it through his consent, 
and the kindness of Prof. A. E. Verrill, of Yale College, to whom it had been intrusted for scientific use. Captain 
Townsend lived at South Haven, where his brother, Mr. George H. Townsend, still continues the business on a 
large scale. Captain Townsend was in command of ocean steamers for many years, and took special pains, when 
in Europe, to study the methods of oyster-culture in vogue on the French coast, and was able to apply many hints 
there obtained to his plantations on this side, thougli he found so great a difference of circumstances and natural 
history between French and American oysters, that his transatlantic experience was of less use here than he had 
expected it to be. The "fort", to which he often refers, is old Fort Hale, on the rocky eastern store of the 
harbor, near the mouth. It was a picturesijue brick structure in 1812, but had become dilapidated at the time when 
the civil war of 18(51 broke out, and so was razed and transferred into a series of earthworks and bomb-proofs. 
The moat and its tide-sluice became the scene of Captain Townsend's experiments, detailed in the account condensed 


The first inemoranrlum in this interesting book informs us, under the date " ] 807 ", that the author " commenced 
stocking the ditch at Fort Hale with native oysters, of two years' growth, in September and October of 1S(J7, for 
the purpose of experiment". Only 51 bushels were laid down. To 180S is devoted only oue page, as follows : " In 
September and October, 1808, we notice a thrifty set of young oysters along the edge of the ditch and on the 
stones near the sluice ; also, on the piles of the bridge and in the brook that leads into the ditch. We are also 
sorry to note that about one-half of the oysters laid down as an experiment, for spawners, have been killed by- 
becoming buried in the mud." Subsequently (June 10, 1870), the author records that "one of our neighbors took 
from the ditch, one night last fall, 23 bushels of the oysters planted by us and sold them iu Kew Haven". Betwixt 
mud and thieves, experimental knowledge appears to have been a dear acquisition. 

The next record is under 1809 : 

From the last two years' experience we have flccitled to stock the ditch wifh native oysters, of three years' growth, this fall, for tha 
purpose of having them iu thriving condition during the spawuing-seaaou of 1870. Wo have now down the following (inantities: 


Eomaiuing, four years old, say 25 

Eemaining, of spawn 100 

Selected natives, iilanted November 3 to 29 150 

This year's growth, taken fiom the edge of the ditch 25 

Total 300 

The next entry is a list of the names of the 48 original proprietors to whom the oyster-lots, subsequently 
transferred to the Townsend Brothers, were first granted by the town of East Haven. The lots run from No. 389 
to No. 482 ; each lot consisted of two acres. 

In July, 1808, Mr. Townsend began spreading shells upon seven of his lots, and between the 16th and 29th 
threw overboard 4,487 bushels, estimating that each lot required from 700 to 750 bushels. The expense of this he 
sets down at 8 cents a bushel; 2J cents cost of shells; 5 cents for boating and spreading; J cent for staking, etc. 

Following this comes a "memorandum of sound and cove seed-oysters, planted August and September, 1808". 
This states, verj' particularly, the date of planting, who did the labor, the exact location of the work, and the number 
of bushels put down each time, with occasional additional note, regarding quality, etc. A large number of the Fair 
Haven oystermen appear to have been furnished with steady employment at this season. Succeeding this entry, are 
similar memoranda of Fair Haven river seed-oysters planted at the same time upon difterent ground. In all, 834 
bushels of cove and sound seed and 2,595 bushels of river seed were planted, both kinds a year old. This seed, says a 
subsequent entry, was laid down at the rate of 25 bushels to 30 feet square, or 1,000 bushels to the acre ; eighteen 
months afterward it was decided to be too thick to thrive well. 

At this time he began taking up some Virginia oysters. Oue cargo, planted April 24, 1869, on lot 455, consisted 
of 765 bushels from Fishing bay. They cost, to bed down, 31.J cents a bushel, and sold, December 1, at 48 cents a 
bushel. Another cargo, planted on lots 400 and 407, April 25, 1809, consisted of 2.280 bushels from Great Anamassie. 
They cost, to bed down, 34i cents, and sold, on the ground, for 50 cents per bushel. The oysters i-emaiued down, on 
the average, six months, and increased in growth one-third. 

Between July 14 and 26 he shelled the east side of lots 428, 429, 430 with 900 bushels of " stools", in a strip 
about 100 feet wide, and put 200 bushels on Black Eock bar. 

This completes the diary for 1869. I continue to quote : 

January 1, 1870. — Paid W F , for service as watchman, 10 days, at §2 ^0, S25. 

F was relieved to-day by A. Moulthrop, whom I have employed, for the Townsend Brothers, to cultivate oysters, and otherwise, 

for one year, at the rate of $i75 per month. 

January 26, 1870. — Spent severiil hours to-d.ay with Moulthrop on the oyster-beds in the harbor. I also told him of my plans for 
developing the ditch at Fort Hale. We walked around it and I gave him an idea how much of the ditch we had stocked ; I also showed 
him the mussel-p.atch in the sluice, and gave him directions to get brush ready to lay over the mussels for the purpose of catching their 
spawn, similar to the French ))lan. I also told him to i)repare stakes, boats, etc., for work in the sjiring. 

March 2'6, 1870. — I lind the cold weather had killed many of our finest oysters near the sluice at the fort. We were emjiloyed scraijiug 
and trimming wp the ditch, etc. 

March 28, 1870. — Moulthroi> and myself busy on the oyster-grounds getting ready to transplant seed from sjiawn of 1868. 

On the following day the transplanting was begun. Lot 409 had been "shelled" in July, 1808, at the rate of 
1,000 bushels to the acre. These shells had caught a large amount of spat, which had lived and was now ready 
to be transferred. Between March 29 and May 26 there w ere taken from this lot, as follows : 


Tr.ansplanted to lot No. 426 650 

Transplanted to lot No. 400 645 

Transplanted to lot No. 403 , 630 

Transplanted to lot No. 402 540 

Before transplanting, the lot which was to receive this .seed was divided off into "squares", 30 feet in breadth, 
and about 15 bushels was x)laced on each square. Mr. Townsend made a i)lat of each lot, so planted, in his note- 
book. I will transcribe one, as a sample of the many that occur all through, since it may be suggestive. On each 
square is noted the date of planting and the number of bushels, thus : " April 14 — 15." 



28 30 30 30 30 

30 feet. 

This strip, 30 

April 18—15. 

April 18—15. 

gco April 16—15. 

ft. wide, plant 

April 18—15. 

April 15—15. 

ed July and A 

ugBSt, 1868, 
Juno 5, 1871 

Api-il 18—15. April 11—15, 

April 14—15. 

April 15—15. April 14—15. 

April 11—15. 

April 13—15. 

Aprill6-15. April 15— 15. Aprill4— 15. Aprill3— 15. 

AprU 16—15. 

April 14—15. 

April 14—15. 

AprU 15—15. , April 14—15. April 14—15. 

April 13—15. 

April 13-15. 

with 210 busb 

April 7 — 15. 

April 7—15. 

April 7—15. 

AprU 7—15. 

April 6—15. 

ApiU 6—15. 

els F. H. see d. Kcplanted 

AprU 12—20. April 11—15. 

AprU 5—15. 

AprU 5—15. 

AprU 5—20. 

April 6—15. 

April 6—15. 

Mar. 31—17. 

Mar. 31—18. 

Mar. 30—17. 

Mar. 30—18. 

Mar. 29—15. 

90 90 90 90 90 100 100 bush. 


Turning the pages still further, it appears that other spat had been caught on stools and was now transplanted, 
over 8,000 bushels being gathered from ten or twelve acres. Meanwhile, .seed was being imported from outside sources. 
Cove seed, for instance, was caught up from lot No. 415 and laid down ou lot No. Hi, on Black Eock bar, to the 
amount of 750 bushels ; while on June 15, 30 bushels of Long Island seed was put on lot 417, at a cost of 25 cents a 
bushel ; and on July 25, 110 bushels of Morris Cove seed, at 20 cents, was planted on lot 415. 

Meanwhile, in May, the schooner Albert Field brought Mr. Townsend a cargo of Wycomico river oysters from 
Virginia, which he bedded ou Craue bar and ou Black Eock bar, under the following expense : 

3,000 bushels, first cost, at 15 cents $1450 00 

3,000 bushels, at 14 cents freight .' 420 00 

2,940 bushels, bedded, at 3 cents 88 20 

Total 958 20 

Add cost of 4 tubs 4 00 

Add branding 12 tubs, at 50 cents 6 00 

Grand total 9(58 20 

DiART OP Captain Townsend. — Going back a little, now that this subject of transplanting has been followed 
to the end, the diary shows that Mr. Townsend conducted many experiments in propagating oysters during the 
summer. I copy the record of this practical study : 

May 25, 1870. — I have carefully watched the growth of oysters planted in the ditch. A large iiroportion of the first laid down have 
died, haviug been badly niudded ; but the young ones, from the spat or spawn of the oysters, laid dowu in 1867 and 1868, have grown very 
rapidly. The shells are thin and generally thrifty. 

June 18. — I h.ave this d.ay been employed » * » running east and west lines, as per map No. 1 of oyster-grounds, in New Haven 
harbor within the limits of East Haven. [Here follows technical description of boundaries and ranges corrected from the survv>y of 1866.] 
* * * I have taken great pains to have this survey made, and spared no expense, as it is very important that some landmark should 
be made, as the ice carries away all stakes in winter, and it is remarkable that the one stake we have used has remained so long ; but it 
is sure to go next winter, for the sea-worms have eaten it badly. 

June 23. — Laid down near the bridge 15 bu.shels very large and fine single oysters taken from lot 422. 

June 29. — Employed all day. Employed all day with two carts, three men, and Sergeant Maxwell, at the fort, carting oyster-shells 
prei)aratory to shelling the ditch. We have dumj)ed 27 loads, of 25 bushels each, in piles 60 feet apart. Will sjiread the shells at the rate 
of 12i bushels to a space 30 feet square. We call the ditch 30 feet wide at the bottom. 


Jidi/ 2. — Maxwell finisliod spreading shells in the ditcli for the present. For the past -ncek I have kept the ditch with aliont 4 feet of 
water in it in order to let the sun heat the water and make the oysters all spawn ahont the same time. I have also shut out the tide and 
let flow in as much fresh water as possible, as an abunilant supi)ly is. supposed to l)cnoiit the oysters while sjiawuiug. 

July 10. — Examined shells and oysters in the fort ditch this morning. The native oysters of the ditch seem to be about half-doue 
spawning, while those taken from lot No. 422 — very large, flue, single oysters, say four years old — seem just ready to spawn. The shells 
put in July 1 are coated with slime, fine sea-grasses, and now and then a speck which looks as if it might be spat. 

At the end of July the aitthor sums up his summer's labors, and counts over 10,000 bushels of stools planted, at 
a cost of from 5 to 7 cents laid down, or a total of $688 50. 

Jiiljl 28. — I have also laid down, as an experiment, what is equal to 50 bushels an acre of smooth stones on lot 179, to keep the shells 
from shit'tiug. and also to see if the spawn will set on the stones. 

We are oft'ered any quantities of shells for 2 cents per bushel in the heap, or laid down for .'i cents. We have paid as hi'^h as 5 cents 

a bushel for shells Ijrought from Fair Haven river, but can now get the same work done for 4 cents, and 3|. II G has planted 

177 bushels of shells taken from the saltpeter works for 2 J cents; William E. 15 furnishes shells, laid down, for 5 cents per bushel; and 

William G will let us have 5,000 bushels for 2 cents, or have them laid down for 5 cents. 

On August 1, Mr. Towusend tabulated his estimated wealth in oysters — the season being now over — as follows: 


Young seed, from' shells 8, 150 

Old seed, river and cove 6,000 

Fort ditch 1,500 

Scattering sources 1,500 

Virginia plants , 3,000 

Total 20,150 

August 2. — This day examined two oyster-lots in Morris cove, the first a triangular lot near Jlorris' wharf. » * * Wg gjjjj j^ -^qH 
stocked, and also aflbrding good clamming, but the growth of oysters there is very slow. This is oue of the oldest beds in the cove and 
there are oysters on it seven or eight years old. The second, ofl' Nettleton's, ranges as follows: » * * This lot was seeded in 18(J(>-'67 
and the oysters have not grown since the first year. Clams in abundance. 

I notice that the oysters at Morris' aud in the harbor are out of spawn, but we see no signs of young oysters yet. 

September 1. — Have examined carefully the shells laid down to catch spawn, and have not as yet found one young oyster, either in the 
fort ditch or in the harbor lots. We hear of a slight set in the cove and off the light-house. Moulthrop has been employed in the cove 
and has brought up and laid down on lot No. 413, about 150 bushels of oysters, which were very fat, but had not grown enough to pay for 
planting, in three years; and I am convinced from actual observation that Morris cove, insideof the base-line, is not a productive sjjot for 
seed-oysters. Otf-shore, and between Slorris' wharf and the light-house, they may do better, as they get more current and fresh water. 
If the brook running east of Thompson's house could be let into the cove about at Parker's house, I think it would improve oyster-culture 
between the fort and the light-house, .§100 per annum. 

Moulthrop has taken several bushels of clams from lots 250 and 207, aud reports good clamming, something we will pay attention 
to next year. 

The Virginia oysters planted on Black Rock bar have " sanded " somewhat, and, with the exception of a small spot in the sluice, the 
ground north of a line running to Hugh Waters' is not fit to plant on again, as I notice that some sand-ridges have shifted two rods since 
spring. These oysters (a lot of 1,080 bushels, from schooner Albert Field, planted May 14, being all Ihat lived out of a cargo in bad 
condition when put down) have grown about 50 per cent, in three and a half months. If allowed to remain until December 1, they ought 
to be double their size when put overboard. Some of them are still in spawn, but are fit to open now, and their flavor is the same as that 
of the fort oysters. 

We also planted 1,920 bushels, from the same vessel, on Crane's bar, in 2 and 3 feet of water (low tide) and on softer bottom, and in 
less current; they have not done as well. 

Oystermen report native oysters fat, but cannot account for it, as we have not had rain for three months. They say the reason the 
spawn has not matured this year is because the water has been so salt that it has killed the spawn. * Moulthrop has also caught up 500 
bushels of natives i>lantcd on lot No. 401, and has laid them down for fall use on the flats off the mouth of the creek. 

October 1. — During the last two weeks we have sold about 175 bushels of oysters, and bought about 400 bushels of cove seed, and laid 
it down for next year. We have also liegun to open a few oysters to try the market, but the weather is so warm dealers do not care to 
buy. The seed planted in the spring looks thrifty and clean. The drills have made some havoc, and we hear of starfish ofl' the Pardee 

October 23. — Returned from Boston last night, and this afternoon went out with Moiilthrop to examine the oysters laid down as an 
experiment, on Black Rock bar. We find that the tidal wave occasioned by the shock of an earthiiuake last Thursday, has done considerable 
havoc among the oyster-beds. For the last two summers the growth of sea- weed on the flats has been very abundant, and as there was 
no ice last winterto clean it off, this year's growth, with the old growth, made the quantity double ; the hot sun this summer having killed it 
all, and left it to decay. When the tidal wave came up the harbor from soulh-southvest to north-northeast, it is reported to have combed up 2 
feet, by captains of vessels lying at anchor, and it swept before it all the mass of loose decayed sea^weed, and i>iled in windrows all the way from 
the Townsend creek to Crane's bar, comijletely smothering 500 bushels of oysters laid down at the mouth of the creek. It also altered 
the whole south and west side of Black Rock bar, and has destroyed hundreds of bushels of fine Virginia oysters, the sand In some places 
being 2 feet high. It has also tossed the oysters abont in every direction, and our loss cannot be counted up at present, but we found 
oysters half a mile from their beds, which shows the strength of the tidal wave to have been great. 

I find the oysters laid down as an experiment have all done well, except those laid down just north of the breakwater, off" King's 
island. They are poor, which 1 attribute to not having fresh water, and I will iu the spring open a creek through the meadow, which 
will give a good supply ; as I believe the salt meadows are full of fine springs of fresh water, and if drained will not only benefit the 

*This and the previous sentence refer to popular traditions which no evidence supports as true. — E. I. 


meadow, but tlie fresli water will furnish a large supply of food necessary for the oysters to thrive well. The seed laid on the flats in May 
last has increased 100 per cent., and on Black Rock bar about 50 jier cent. The young cove- or lighthouse-seed, bought of Captain 
Luddington iu August, has at this niomcut increased 100 per cent., and astonishes us all. It is my opinion, if we lay down any more, 
in order to thrive well they should be put down at the rate of 10 bushels to the square of 30 feet. By so doing, the seed will be large 
and sound in about one year's time. 

I have not examined the oysfers in the ditch at Fort Hale for two months, but when looked at they were in a thrifty condition, and 
■will be ready for market this fall, if required. The two beds opposite ship-yard in Fair Haven river, are being taken up, and Mr. George 
Baldwin, the ship-builder, who has charge of them, says they are fat and looking well. The oysters in the cove are small, as they lie out 
of the current ; but the clams are very abundant. Next year we shall clean up the cove. I write this In haste, as I leave for New York 
to take command of steamer Ontario to-night, and expect to make a voyage to Europe. Will commence next March to cultivate in earnest. 

After his return from this voyage, Captain Townsend resumes his diary : 

January 1, 1871. — Having closed the oyster-season last month, and being away at sea, my brother, George H. Townsend, decided to keep 
Anson Moulthrop watching oysters until I returned. 

Havin'T arrived at Boston, January 12, and home, January 15, I find the oyster-interest has been well looked out for, and as ice has 
closed up the harbor, we will wait until spring, before making farther beyond watching, ete. 

March 1. — The ice has now broken vip .and left the shore and salt meadows in a very bad condition, having had several south-south- 
west n-ales, which reached tlieir height about high water, piling the cakes of ice, some of which were 2 feet thick, one on the other, and 
the heavy surf kept them iu constant motion, so that the whole length of the beach has been stirred up frqm Fort Hale to the creek, and 
thousands of tons of sand have been driven upon the meadows north of the creek. On the whole, the north part of the farm has been 
improved, but my point (the south water-front) badly injured. I also notice the ice has plowed deep furrows along the flats, and largo 
rocks have been taken from the beach and left on the flats ; and that oysters left in holes on Black Rock bay, have been washed ojit, and 
more than one-half carried out to sea by the ice. Those that remain, however, are of good quality, and in the sluice where the water 
was deep enough to keep them from coming iu contact with the ice, I find them very fat and sweet. This winter has proved one thing, 
however, that all oysters must be taken off the flats before the harbor freezes up, or frost will kill what ice does not carry off'. Of the 300 
bushels of Virginia oysters left on Cr.ane's bar, in 4 feet of water at low tide, about three-fourths have died, but the one-fourth now living 
have the same flavor as the native oysters, and are very fat. The native oysters have all done well. Those planted on the oft-shore acres 
have increased about "200 per cent., and those in-shore about 150 per cent. I think we can safely estimate that the 8,500 bushels of seed 
taken from about 3,000 bushels of shells laid down in 1868, and transplanted in April and May, 1870, will now turn out 22,000 bushels of 
thrifty stock. 

April 1. — Began working and watching oysters. * • * We now have the ground all staked out, and find that the whips put down 
last fall have all remained in their places, unbroken by ice, as were the larger. Hereafter we shall use whips instead of stakes. The original 
stake on the south line is gone. 

A2>ril 10. — Mr. F began cleaning ground of the Virginia oysters i^lan ted last fall, and putting them inside of the eel-grass above 

the creek. The mud in the ditch at Fort Hale has smothered a great many of the oysters under cultivation there, and all the shells spread 
last summer have disappeared. The heavy gales last winter have destroyed the southwest sea-wall, and killed large quantities of fine 
oysters put there for the purpose of multiplication. We shall, however, shell the ditch again this summer, and keep up the cultivation. 

April 20.— I find that the 198 bushels of seed-oysters planted along the north line by Anson Moulthrop, April 8, 9, and 20, have not 
thrived well, as the sea- weed grew up and choked them ; many, also, have been eaten by the sea-drills. 

April 22. — Have carefully examined the lots planted with shells, except the two most southern ones, and have not found one single 
young oyster.* 

Alay 18. — Began taking up and planting, and am pleased to find the different beds looking so fine. 

June 24.— I find that on the acre No. 414 (planted iu August and September, 18G8, with Fair Haven river seed), where we laid down 
2,595 bushels of oysfers, we have taken off and planted on other acres 5,070 bushels. The gain, although considerable, is not as great as 
it would have been had the oysters been transplanted last year. On some squares of 30 feet we took up 100 bushels. I find our great 
mistake has been that of planting the oysters too thick. New Haven harbor seed, one year old, on mud bottom, should be planted at the 
rate of 12 bushels to 30 feet square. Then, when three years old, they will be fit to open, and if allowed to remain four years, they will 
take up at the rate of 75 bushels to the square. 

June 28, 1871.— I have this day taken several of the brick piers used in the foundation of the barracks, just taken down at Fort Hale, 

and placed them at intervals of 30 feet along the north line of the oyster-tract adjoining land occupied by Mr. G audi B . 

The ice having destroyed our stakes, I have taken this means to preserve our north line. 

July 15, 1871.— I have carefully examined the shells this day, laid down July 7, by Goodale, and find a set of shells known as "boat8",t 
which are the forerunners of the young oysters, and look very much like them to the inexperienced. I have not yet been able to discover, 
even with the help of a glass, any signs of spat. 

July 20.— The native oysti^rs are now about half out of spawn, and I notice on the shells laid down July 7 and 11, a set of a greenish 
color in spots, which may be the oyster-spat. It is my opinion, from careful observation during the last four years, that oyster-spawn, 
after leaving the oyster, remains floating about, say a day or a week, until it matures, when It adheres to any clean, hard substance which 
has been just thrown into the water, and is free from slime. After this the coating breaks and the spat takes the shape and form of an 
oyster. Clean bits of wood, leather, bones, glass, iron, and stone have been picked up covered with young oysters, which proves that 
almost any substance thrown info the water, when it is impregnated with spat, will catch it. For catching and propagating oyster-spawn 
the French use brush, but we find that oyster-shells are better. Young New Haven native shells are considered the best, as they are thin, 
and when the oyster grows large enough to keep out of the mud, the shells break asunder and the oyster grows in better shape. Where 
there is much motion iu the water, stones have been used, and where the water is quiet, scallop shells are preferred by some. 

August 1.— The shells are becoming covered with some kind of spawn, green, black, and a silver color, which may bo the eggs of the 
oyster just ready to break. 

*An entry made July 16, 1871, reads: "I find, on examining again, the set was, in spots, good enough to pay expenses." 
+ The slipper limpet or deck-head, Crepidula; three species occur in Long Island sound, of which the C. foniicala is the best known. — 
. I. 


Juffust 4. — I can now safely say that tlic spat lias begun to adhere to the shells. I h.ave several very fine specimens. The eggs .at 
first look (miller the glass) like %'cry fine pearls with a hlack spot, which adheres to the shell and seems theu to break out .and take the 
form of .an oyster. 

Aiii/iist ."). — I notice today that the young oysters on shells laid down July 31 are as Large and abundant as on the shells laid down 
July 7 and lU; and, from a careful examiuatiou, I am sure thi' little pearly specks with a black dot, noticed on thi^ shells from, say, July 
25, were really oysters in their incipient state. On one shell I have counted, with the naked eye, over 20(1 wcU-foruied oysters ; and under 
the glass they are too numerous to count with certainty. Calm and hot weather, from July 10 to August 10, is necessary to make the spawn 
mature and adhere to the shells properly. 

August 7.— I have jiroved to-day, to my own mind, that the green spots first seen on the shells laid down early in July are not oyster- 
spat or spawn. The dark, muddy substance on the shells, I am inclined to think, comes from the oysters and envelops the spawn, 
protecting it while drifting .around until it becomes fit to adhere to a stool and liiitch out. The eggs, when they leave this covering, look like 
fine sand, transparent under the glass, with a black dot. I have proved this by opening several oysters on Saturday, August 5, and, after 
removing the meats, carefully laying the shells down near a stake in the center of a bed of oysters just out of spawn ; to-day, August 7, 
just 48 hours later, I find on these shells a line "set" of young oysters, some of them just formed, others just attaching themselves and 
dropping off at the slightest touch. 

I also notice the young oysters which have .att.ached themselves to shells on Black Rock, and ,aro hardly ten day.i o!d, have 
an enemy in the small black winkle or snail,* and in the drill, which bores holes in the shell and destroys them by the hundred. 
August S. — I h.ave decided to put down 600 bushels more oyster-shells, as I liud the water is full of spawn. 

Auijust 9. — Have put down 300 bushels to-day off Black Rock bar, along the edge sand and mud, and 400 bushels to August 9, which 
finishes spreading shells this year. Total amount .5,190 bushels. .Shells bought at the copper-works have cost us 7 cents laid down. Shells 
from F.air Haven 2i, and !S cents lioating. equals 7+ eeuts laid down. Shells from oysters opened by our own helji 21 cents laid down. 

August 10. — Have examined careluUy tlie shells laid down July 31, and find an increase in the set, and a very r.apid growth. I find 
that by opening oysters and laying down the shells, that in three tides we find a set of spat, which proves that the water is now full of 
spat. I have also noticed that for the first two days after the young oysters have been taken from the water they seem to increase in size. 
They then die and some drop from the shells. 

I estimate the total amount of bushels now planted as follows : 


Spa\%Ti8 of 1868 planted in 1870, and now doubled by increase 16, '^00 

1868 seed (spawn of 1867) transpl.anted 6,130 

Fort Hale (spawn of 1866), phanted on Bl.ack Rock 3,225 

Oysters cm beds (spawn of 1869) tr.ansplauted last year I,2!i0 

Fort ditch. Fair Haven, and Cove 1,000 

Young seed on shells of 1870 1, 000 

Total 28,805 

Allowing the growth of this to increase one-fourth th's season, and adding this 7,000 bushels to the 28,805, we have 35,805 bushels of 
oysters actually growing. To this may be added 5,190 bushels of shells well set, to say nothing of the set on the shells laid down in 1870, 
which wUl amount to something. The estimate, therefore, sums nxi as follows; 


Total oysters planted 28, 805 

Increase through growth 7, 000 

Stools and sot 5, 190 

Total property 40,995 

August 19. — The spawning-season is now over, .and I find this year's experience should not advise laying down sheila later than August 
10 or earlier than .Inly 10. The spawn seems to have drifted in flakes. Some areas have a better set than others. The drills and small 
black snails are killing the young oysters by the millions, and where it runs bare at low water it is worse. 

September 1. — I notice that where the spat has set on oyster-stakes in the eel-grass, that the grass sweep the young oysters off the 
stake; but out of the reach of the grass the oysters .ari? solid and reach up within a few inches of the water-snrface at higli tide, and the 
grass seems to prevent the drill from getting up the stake to the young oysters. Oysters are very poor, except those laid in the sluice. 

September 25. — Wo have caught np, sent to market, and laid on the fiats, about 500 bushels three years old. Oysters over three years 
old are now large enough for shell-oysters. I saved a specimen of oyster set on a stake, and will next year try brush for the spat to 
set on. 

Extent op oyster-cttlture ra New Haven. — Out of the .seven or eight thousand aeres "designated" 
in New Haven harbor and its oftiug, only from .3,000 to 3,500 are in actual use as yet. The hirgest possession is 
Mr. H. C. Eowe's ; he operates upon about J, 500 acres. Several other planters have from two to six hundred, while 
many have a hundred acres under cultivation. The major part of this is in deej) water, and is yet regarded to a 
great extent as an experiment, particularly by those who live in other parts of the state. Thus far the success has 
been encouraging. One gentleman calculates that he has 200,000 bushels of oysters of all ages on his offshore land. 
Another planter gives me his estimated wealth as follows: On 70 acres, 75,000 bu.shels, suitable to be .sold as .seed 
in the .spring of 1880, at an average of 50 cents a bushel ; on 50 acres, shells and a good set ; elsewhere, in one 
tract, about 3,000 bushels of young -spawners, on which shells are to be thrown ; on another tract, 20,000 bushels 
of seed useful in 1880; and, lastly, an area holding about 5,000 bushels of "set". A 30-acre lot yielded this firm 
12,000 bushels in three years, which were sold at 70 cents. 

* Trilia Iriviflata, or perhaps Ilgauaasa obsoleta. No doubt various of the small gasteropods devour incipient oysters and other young 


Eavages of starfishes and thieves. — As yet starfislies have not proved a resistless enemy to tbe outer 
beds, although individuals have suflercd great harm through their ravages in isolated cases. There are not so 
many rocks and hiding places for them here as exist in the western part of tlie state, which may account for the 
present partial immunity. It is feared, nevertheless, that continued planting will cause a gradual increase of the 
plague, since elsewhere starfishes have increased in proportion to the expansion of the planting. A greater obstacle 
to success here is the liability of the bottom to move in gales and bury or scatter the beds. The drawback from 
thieving has already been touched upon. This nuisance has been greatly abated, and a much healthier imblic 
sentiment prevails, but there still remain lawless men who will watch their chance to jjush out from some cove, or 
come in from the sound, and steal the bivalves. Hence a watchtower has been built at Long Wharf, in Jfew 
Haven, in which a man is kept night and day. Another is built on the flats that run put from the West Haven 
shores. Still others are kept off the Light- House point, and at a point off Branford harbor. The oyster-planters 
share the expense of such provisions for keeping their property from thieves, each paying according to the amount 
he has at stake. 

Quality of oysters in 1879-'S0. — The present season (1879-80) the native oysters grown in all parts of 
river and habor, especially in the neighl)orhood of Morris cove, are of very unusually poor quality. I have heard 
suggested but one plausible explanation of this. Dvu-ing July and August, 1879, a series of heavy inland storms 
occurred, and the Quinepiac and its tributaries were swollen with successive freshets; as a consequence, the water 
of the harbor, throughout its whole extent, was so roily that in place of its accustomed purity it was thick and brown 
for weeks together; it does not seem improbable that such an unusual condition not only proved fatal to the spawn 
in all parts of the harbor, as something certainly did, for no set was obtained, but cut off also the food of the adult 
oysters to such an extent that they were unable to recuperate from the long fast. The fact that oysters will "fat 
up" in a day, under good circumstances, is opposed to this theory, which is worth only so much as a suggestion. 


History of Milford as a fishing town. — Leaving New Haven, the first stoppage for oyster-studies is at 
Milford, one of the most interesting and beautiful places in the state. It was settled in 1639, and long ago had an 
extensive West India trade and ship-building industry. The business in that line declined forty years ago. The gulf, 
harbor, and estuaries have always been more or less prolific of shellhsh. Milford long-clams have a good 
reputation. Milford point, at the mouth of the Housatonic river, was a famous oystering place many years ago. 
Old citizens remember a row of huts, built of wreckage and covered with banks and thatching of sea- weed, which 
used to border this wild beach. In these huts lived fifty or sixty men, who made here their home during a greater 
or less part of the year, and devoted themselves to clam-digging aud oyster-raking. Many of these men, who 
were utterly poor, thus got together the beginnings of a fortune, which, invested in active agriculture, placed 
them among the most influential inhabitants. But for the last thirty or forty years such sea-industries as these 
have been declining, until nothing whatever was done on the water by Milford people, except the catching of 
menhaden, for the utilization of which two large factories have been built. 

Experiments of Mr. William H. Merwin.— About eight years ago, however, Mr. William H. Merwin, 
knowing what had been done about New Haven, began his valuable experiments in cultivating native oysters. 
He and some others had once before started an enterprise of raising oysters in the "Gulf pond" at the mouth of 
the Indian river. But the other stockholders, being older men, disregarded his advice, though he had always lived 
by the shore, and the effort failed. They insisted upon damming the river, so that the sediment brought down by 
the stream was deposited upon and smothered the oysters. It is this episode that gave rise to section 10 of the 

Eight years ago Mr. Merwin resolved to try oyster-planting for himself. He took up a few acres off the shore 
in water 8 feet deep at low tide. He had just got his oysters well planted and had high hopes of success, when a 
storm destroyed them all. His labor and money got no return but costly experience. He then tried again, further 
out toward the sea, in IS feet depth of water, near the government buoy. He got so heavy a set, and his young 
stock grew so well, that he estimated his crop at 10,000 bushels. Cultivators from Providence aud Boston came 
down and bargained with him to take it all about the middle of April, but the last of March there came a gale 
which drifted so much sand upon the oysters that they had not strength, after the severe winter, to "spit it out", 
and before they could be takeu up so many died that only 3,000 bushels were sold. There had been an inmionse 
excitement over the seeming success of oyster-culture ; a joint stock company had been formed and the whole harbor 
taken up ; but this storm put an end to the enthusiasm, and everybody, except Mr. Merwin aud his two sons, 
retreated. Mr. Merwin, however, saw that the trouble lay in the shallowness of the water. He therefore went 
down to Pond point, eastward of the harbor, and buoyed off 200 acres in water from 25 to 40 feet deep, uiion a 
hard, gravelly, and sandy bottom. He i)laced upon this ground a quantity of full-grown oysters and shells aud 
secured a large set, which has been angineutcd each jear since, until he now has 100 acres under cultivation. In 
1877 there was a veiy heavy set hereabouts; in 1878 less, aud in 1879 least of all. 

Plate XXXI 

%f %^ M ¥i %f %^M fk 

Monograph- 1 -liTEll-lXD USTE Y. 

%t t 1( t J f 

Oyster Tongs and Nippku.s. 


The Milford oyster- steamek. — Ilaviug thus got assurance of a profitable farm, for storms no longer seemed 
able to affect him, Mr. ]Merwin saw that he needed more rapid and sure means of harvesting his crop than the row- 
boats and skiffs afforded. He therefore employed the firm of Lockwood & Co., of Norwalk, to build him a steamer 
for the expi'ess purpose of dredging, and introduced the proper machinerj' for that work. With this steamer, which 
is, to a large degree, independent of wind and weatlier, he can do three times the amount of work possible for the 
same number of dredges worked without steam (500 bushels is not an uncommon day's result with two dredges), 
and do it best on the "dull" days, when it is too calm for his neighbors' sloops to work. Its owners often find 
profitable employment for their leisure in chartering the steamer to other oystermen, who desire aid in dredging or 
in raking off the starfish that infest some beds. One single instance of the advantage the use of steam was to this 
firm will be pardoned. In the spring of 1879 a Ehode Island planter sent a sloop, capable of carrying 1,500 bushels, 
to Ifew Haven to buy small seed. The Merwins were invited to contribute to the cargo, the captain of the sloop 
buying on the principle of "first come, first served", until he had filled up, haste being the great desideratum. It 
happened, that upon tlie very day the sloop arrived a dead calm fell, and not a sloop from Fair Haven or Oyster 
jtoint could haul a dredge. Meanwhile Mr. Merwiu's steamer was puffing back and forth through the quiet sea, 
without an hour's cessation, and in two days placed 1,200 bushels of seed upon the sloop's decks. 

Local opposition to otstee-culture. — There are two rivers which come down to the sea at ]\Iilford, the 
pleasant Wepawaug, along whose banks the town lies, and whose upper waters turn numerous mills; and Indian 
river, which empties into the harbor close by the mouth of the former stream. Indian river debouches in an estuary 
called the Gulf, or Gulf pond. Except in one little si)Ot no oysters grow now, or ever did grow, in this inclosed 
salt-water pond, although it would be the best possible place to cultivate them. But the popular feeling of the 
town is so strongly against the utilization of these advantages by private effort, that no ground is permitted to be 
set off', and any oysters put down there are liable to be seized as public plunder. Once, indeed, the oyster-committee 
assigned to Mr. Merwin a tract in the gulf; but as soon as it was found out, an indignation meeting was held and 
mob law was loudly threatened. Cooler judgment overruled that, but any cultivation of this valuable ground, 
otherwise wholly useless, was sternly interdicted. 

Present state of oyster-culture at Milford. — Inspired by Mr. Merwin's success and pluck, various 
persons have taken up ground in the vicinity of his tract oft' Pond point, amounting in the aggregate to about 750 
acres, divided among eight owners. One of these gentlemen, in addition to 100 acres h'>re, has several smaller tracts 
at difl'erent points along the shore to the westward ; in all, about 400 acres, upon which some thousands of bushels 
of young oysters are growing. There is plenty of good bottom still remaining off this shore, however. 


How ground is obtained. — The mode of obtaining ground under the new law of 1881, says a correspondent 
of the iVcH? Yurie Sioi, will be as follows: The person desiring ground must make application in the prescribed form 
of a blank, legally approved by the chief justice of the state, setting forth the quantity of ground he wishes, 
prescribing exactly where it is, and showing that it is not and has not been within ten years a natural oyster, clam, 
or mnssle bed. A notice, which includes an exact copy of that application, is sent to the town clerk of the town 
opposite which the ground asked for lies, and nuist be posted in a conspicuous place in his office for twenty days, in 
which time objectors to the grant, if there are any, must file their objections with the town clerk. If no objections 
appear, the commissioners are authorized to give the ajiplicant a deed of the ground, upon his paying the state 81 
per acre therefor and the expense of surveying and mapping the lot, which is covered by a charge of ten cents per 
acre. If any objections are filed with the town clerk they must be returned with the application to the state fish 
commissioners, who will institute an investigation and decide the case as seems to them just and lawful. The 
grounds for objections are, either that the grounds applied for are natural beds, or that some person claims ownership 
by virtue of umny years' possession and enjoyment, or under a deed from the town. Fifteen years' possession is 
held to confer rights of ownership. In the matter of forbidding the designation to private individuals of natural 
shellfish beds, the law is especially severe, prescribing that the commissioner who knowingly does such a thing 
shall be subject to a fine of not less than §100 nor more than S500, and that the person illegally obtaining such 
natiual beds knowingly shall lose his designation and forfeit all he has paid for it. Provision is made for theretiuMi 
of a purchaser's money in case his designated ground proves to be unfit for the cultivation of shellfish, and to 
IH'event speculators from getting possession of ground and holding it indefinitely for a rise in value instead of for 
honest work, there is a clause compelling the cultivation of ground within five years from its allotment. A clause iu 
the bill prescribes that ]io person can hold ground taken from the state, or from a grantee of the state, unless he has 
been a resident of tlie state for one year jirior to his entering upon such jjossession. This clause the commission 
will probably ask the legislature to strike out. Xot only is its narrow proscription an ott'ensive featui'c, but conditions 
are easily conceived in which it would work great injury to persons desirous of retiriug from business, and to heirs, 
beside shutting out much desirable capital. The law provides for the plain marking out of designated grounds bj' 
the grantees by permanent "stakes, buojs, ranges, or monuments", so that hereafter, or, rather, after operations are 
fully commenced under this law and commission, there need be no more confusions of jiroperty rights to ground 
under water than respecting real estate high aud dry on a hill. 


Tongs, rakes, and dredges. — In gathering seed near shore, and somewhat otherwise, tongs and occasionally 
rakes (those with long curved teeth) are used ; but the marketable oysters are nearly all brought from the bottom 
by dredges of various weights and slight differences in pattern. In the case of all the smaller sail-boats, the 
dredges having been thrown overboard and filled, are hauled up by hand— a back-breaking operation. Qlie oysters 
themselves are very heavy, and frequently half the amount caught is composed of shells, dead oysters, winkles, and 
other trash, which must be culled out, thus compelling the oystermen to twice or thrice the work which they would 
be put to if there were nothing but oysters on the ground. The work of catching the oysters by any of these 
methods is, therefore, very tiresome and heavy, and various improvements have been made, from time to time, in 
the way of labor-saving, from a simple crank and windlass to patented complicated power-windlasses, similar to 
those commonly used in the Chesapeake boats. When a proper breeze is blowing, dredging can be accomplished 
fi-om a sail-boat, with one of these windlasses, with much quickness and ease. In a calm, or in a gale, however, the 
work must cease, as a rule. 

Under these circumstances, and as the business increased, it is not surprising that the aid of steam should have 
been enlisted; nor, perhaps, is the controversy which has ensued to be wondered at, since the introduction of novel 
or sujierior power into some well-traveled walk of industry has ever met with indignant opposition. 

Boats. — In former times all oystering was done by means of small row-boats. That this has not been wholly 
abandoned is shown by the fact, that there are yet to be found fifteen or twenty dug-out canoes at and about jSTew 
Haven, devoted to catching both seed and marketable oysters. Some of these canoes are of large size and good 
pattern, but few or none are now made new, so that their number diminishes, and they will before long disappear. 
These canoes are to be seen nowhere else along our coast between Maine and the Chesapeake, and with their decay 
goes a monument, not only of old oystering, but of all aboriginal life in New England. 

The substitute for the old canoe is found iu the square-ended skiff, which is only a small scow-boat. Of these, 
which are worth perhaps $10 each, a walk along the Quinepiac will disclose a hundred or more, all devoted to 
oyster-work, chiefly as tenders on the sail-boats in the planting of seed, the bedding down of "Virginia stock, and 
the transporting of cargoes. Many of these small boats, however, are used by planters of small means, who cannot 
afford to run a sail-boat. 

The sail-boats of New Haven harbor are almost universally of the sharpie model, which is well known for its 
speed-giving and room-affording qualities. It is the boast of the Connecticut oystermen, and to them the world 
owes the perfection of this admirable craft, which has been developed to supply the need of a large-stowing, swift- 
running craft, which, at the same time, should be flat-bottomed and draw so little water as to run safely over the 
scarcely submerged oyster-beds. There are nearly 100 sharpies in the harbor, worth perhaps $15,000. 

Oyster-steamers. — The first utilization of steam in this business, so far as I can learn, was by Capt. Peter 
Decker & Brother, of South Norwalk, about 1870. They first put a boiler and engine in the sloop Early Bird, to 
turn the drums in which the dredge lines were hauled, still retaining the sails for the propulsion of the vessel. 
After a time they extended their facilities, by inserting a small screw in their sloop, to assist in propelling her when 
the wind was light, and at length, after further trial, they took this machinery out and put iu a larger boiler and 
engine, with special winding apparatus, and discarding sails altogether. These changes cost §1,300, and now, at 
an expense of 3 to 4 bushels of coal a day, this little steamboat hauls two dredges, and can take up 150 to 200 
bushels per day. 

After the Messrs. Decker's experiments, Mr. W. H. Lockwood, of Norwalk, not an oysterman, but an enthusiatic 
believer in steam-dredging, built the steamer Enterprise expressly for the business. Her length is 47 feet; beam, 14 
feet; she draws 4 feet of water. She handles two drerlges; has a daily capacity of 150 or 200 bushels. 

These were followed by several other steamers. Mr. Joshua Levinness, of City island, has a very large boat 
built for the purpose, and fitted with very heavy machinery ; but it is said to be inconveniently arranged and 
expensive to run. She hauls four large dredges over the stern, and caught oysters so fast on the public oyster- 
grounds in the state of New York, that the owners of saOing boats induced the New York legislature to forbid the 
use of steam on the public grounds. 

The Merwins, of Milford, and Mr. Wheeler Hawley, of Bridgeport, also have steamers of large capacity, so 
that there are now in all seven in Long Island sound, but it is generally acknowledged that the most thoroughly 
equipped boat for this purpose, of the fleet, is owned by H. C. Eowe & Co., of Fan- Uaven, Connecticut. It is named 
the ''William H. Lockwood", and is comparatively new, and cost between six and seven thousand dollars. The 
dimensions of this boat are: length, 03 feet; beam, 16 feet; draught, 5J feet. Her boiler is larger and her engine 
more powerful than usual in a boat of her size, and she can therefore be used for towing, and can force her way 
through heavy ice in the winter, so that her owner is sure of a supply of oysters for his customers when other 
dealers may be unal)le, with sailing-vessels, to get them. Beside her regular propeller engine, she has a double 
engine for hauling dredges, which hauls all four dredges full of oysters at once, and lands them on de(!k, two on 
each side, at the rate of 800 bushels a day, if needed. This employs a crew of ten men, who are protected from 
the weather bj' a housing which covers iu the whole deck. 

Opposition to steam-dredging: Grounds or objection.— Those who were not in possession of the 
steamers, however, quickly began to look askance at the rapidity and comprehensiveness of their woik, and early 


bcijau to attempt to form public opiuiou aud secure legislatiou tendiug to repress this dangerous competition. An 
early success was had, in so far that steam-dredging was permitted on public seed-ground in the sound only on two 
days of each week. Not satisfied with this, however, laws were sought which, if they did not prohibit the use 
of steam altogether, should at least restrict it to the designated planting-ground of tlie owner. The controversy 
which ensued then was long aud bitter. In my inexperience it woidd be presumptuous in me to assume a 
judicial function; and here, as elsewhere, I shall restrict myself to a brief presentation of the arguments o])posed, 
merely pointing out, before I begin, that this contest is aiiparently the same which has always been waged b,\ hauil- 
labor against machinery, and by poor machines against those more adequate to the work — a tight originating in 
ignorance and uuprogressiveucss, and perpetuated through jealousy and personal feeling. I do not say this of this 
controversy alone, but of the whole history of invention and progress in the arts. I have no doubt the Indians 
and first settlers thought the moUusks of the coast would be exterminated, when some enterprising Puritan or 
Knickerbocker brought the destructive rake and tongs or the terrible clamlioe to bear upon them ; and the 
owners of these again were filled M'ith dismay, wlien the first dredge was explained to them and boldly thrown 
over, first from a row-boat and then from sloop and schooner. The transition to steam-power seems only another 
similar step, and the complaints against it are equally valid against superseding steam cotton-looms to hand- 
weaving, or the swift circular-saw to the old pit method. There is hardly any branch of the seine-fisheries now 
where steam is not profitably employed, having overcome opposition, and its service is widening every day. And 
as steam has won before, and approved its title to the crown by its results, so I feel confident it will again be 
victorious — for the world does move. 

The arguments by which the employment of steam-power on Connecticut's public oyster-beds is sought to be 
abolished are about these, as I gather them, chielly from a minority report to the legislatxrre of 1881, on a bill 
before that body : 

There are within the Iwundaries of the waters of Connecticut, at various points along the northern shore of 
Long Island sound, in the aggregate about G,()0() acres of "natiu-al oyster-beds" of the state. 

On a comparatively small portion of this area, Ijing in the channels of rivers and in shallow waters near the 
shore, oysters are customarily allowed to grow to maturity, and are gathered for market and for their own 
consumption by the poorer classes of the people. On a much larger portion of the natural oyster-beds the oysters 
are ordinarily collected when small, to be planted by oyster-cultivators as seed upon their private beds. The 
gathering of these seed-oysters is accomplished by means of di-edges attached by ropes to boats in motion, and so 
diawn along the bottom over the oyster-beds. 

There are directly interested in this business of gathering and planting oysters, about 3,000 citizens of the 
state, most of them small operators with limited capital, owning from two to twenty acres of designated ground 
for oyster planting— and small vessels propelled by sail or oars. Some of them own no ground at all, but gain 
their livelihood by gatliering the seed and selling it to larger proprietors. Seven indi^^duals of the entire number 
of our citizens engaged in this piusuit employ steam tugs or propellers in dredging. The state, by previous 
legislation, has prohibited this use of steam-power on a tract which includes about 633 acres .of the public natural 
growth, leaving a tract which includes about 5,100 acres subject to such use. The object of the desired legislation 
is to prohibit the fiu-thcr use of this steam-power, and to place all our citizens on an equality in the means employed 
in the collection of this their common property from this common or public domain. Such legislative prohibition 
seems to be called for as a matter of fairness and justice to all persons who, by virtue of their common proprietorship, 
are equally entitled to gather oysters and other shellfish from the public domains of the state, and more particularly 
to that large class of our citizens who depend upon the prosecution of this business for the livelihood of themselves 
and their families. It has Ijeen found, from evidence submitted to state-authorities under oath, that by reason of 
the limited resources of this large class of our citizens but very few, if any of them, are, or are likely to be, able 
to provide themselves with steam power ; that by the use of this power a single vessel can, in a given space of time, 
collect of this common public projjcrty a quantity twelve times larger than can be gathered by an average sailing- 
vessel; thus being independent of wind and tide, a steamer can prosecute its work about twice as many days in 
each week, and many more hours in each day; that the earlier part of the dredging season is equally subject to 
calms, and that by a combination of these various causes, together with the fact that the annual crop of seed- 
oysters is limited, and in any given season is liable in a great measvu-e to be exhausted, the favored few, if steam- 
dredging on the public property is allowed to continue, will inevitably gain a vast and unjust advantage over the 
larger and poorer class, and practically drive them from the field, deprive them of their employment, in many 
cases reduce them to destitution, and create a monopoly of the business in the hands of a few individuals. 

To this view of the case, it is objected, that though tliese facts may be undeniable, yet it is counter to the spirit 
of the age, and a blind and inequitable suppression of private enterprise, to deprive any individual of the free use of 
all the improvements which science and his own resources have placed at his command. This would have weight 
if the subject under consideration were simply a matter of private rights, if it were simply a question what 
imiirovements might be employed by individuals in connection with the use of their own private property. 


But it is to be remembered, tliat this is a matter of public and common right, and that it is not only the 
lirivilege but the duty of the state, in relation to this common property, to see that it is fairly and evenly distributed 
among those to whom it equally belongs, and that no person or class of persons shall obtain more than a just share 
of its benefits. This principle is invariably recognized and acted upon in our legislation, relative to our inland 
fisheries; relative to game; relative to steam-dredging on private grounds in certain localities; relative to the taking 
of mature oysters, and even in the designation of grounds for the planting and cultivation of oysters, and any 
legislation that ignores this principle, by favoritism in the granting away of public land, or any other public j)roperty, 
is justly subjected to the reproach of its constituents. 

Further, it is for the preservation of the public oyster-grounds. We have seen that the area was limited, there 
being in all only about 5,728 acres of the 500,000 acres covered by the waters of this state. This comparatively small 
fraction of the whole is the sole natural nursery of all our oyster-growth ; and the existence of this natural oyster- 
ground depends entirely upon the condition of the bottom. 

In order that any portion of the bottom may constitute a natural oyster-bed, it is essential that it should be 
composed of cobble-stones, gravel, shell, or other similar hard substance, from which, by the action of the water, 
slime and other impurities are naturally removed. Without these conditions the spawn, which is floating in the 
water, will not be deposited and adhere ; no germ will be deposited ; no oyster-bed be formed. 

It is obvious, therefore, that any jiractice which tends to remove, diminish, or cover up this indispensable 
foundation for the bed, inevitably leads to the destruction of the bed itself, and reduces the area of the natural 
oyster-grounds of the state. The process of dredging necessarily removes, together with the seed gathered, some 
portion of this essential foundation of the bed ; but by the style of construction and the comparatively lightweights 
of dredges ordinarily employed by sailing-vessels, this objectionable feature of the business is in a large measure 
obviated ; while we find that by the different style of construction and much greater weight of the dredges naturally 
and almost invariably used by the steamers, they sink deeper and penetrate further into the bottom ; they more 
readily overcome resistance; they gather up and remove much larger quantities of the foundation-material of the 
beds, leave the surface in a broken and uneven condition, more liable to be buried in sand and rendered barren by 
the action of the waters in a storm ; and they plough under, smother, and thus destroy the seed-oysters they do not 
gather up. We find, from the evidence, that such has actually been the result of steam-dredging on certain portions 
of iiublic oyster-growth. 

Prior to the fall of 1878, on the tract known as the " Shippen" bed off Stamford, there had been for years a good 
annual growth. 

In the fall of that year a steam-dredge was worked over a very considerable portion of that bed, which portion, 
since that time, has been tried and found totally unproductive; but on other portions of the bed, immediately 
adjoining the place other operations, a good supi^ly has since been annually obtained. 

Prior to the fall of 1879 the " Noroton " bed, a tract of some 300 acres, was for the most part yearly covered with 
an ample "set" of seed. A steamer dredged on a portion of that bed in the summer of that year, and thereafter 
the ground on which she dredged was found unfruitful. 

For many years off' Fairfield bar there had been a valuable bed. Two steamers worked it, and since that time 
no oysters have been found there. 

In 1879 two steamers dredged upon a small tract of natural ground known as the "Pond point" bed, off the 
mouth of Milford harbor, which before that time had borne large quantities of oysters. It has since yielded 

The owners of steamers argue that they will go into deep water and make beds, and assert that " only a few 
years ago the natural bed off Bridgeport was only a little patch. By the work of the vessels it has been spread out 
until it is five miles long and nearly a mile wide. There is no reason why it should not be made four times as large 
by the introduction of steam ". 

In respect to this a citizen of South Norwalk remarks as follows, claiming to know whereof he speaks : 

The Bridgeport bed was discovered in Jnly, 1867. Then it extended from Black Eock harljor to Point-No-Point, at least four miles, 
and was from one-half to one mile -nide, covering about three thousand acres. Capt. Sanuiel Byxbee, Joseph Coe, and William M. 
Saunders were the first to go on it from this town. In one drift, in a light breeze, they caught over 300 bushels of seed. Capt. J. 
Levinness, in going across the bed three times, took 1,000 bushels. Capt. Barnes piled the deck of a fifty-ton sloop in one drift. Catching 
seed there was a constant letting go and hauliug, and men became so exhausted they fell down from sheer fatigue. At one time 450 sails 
were counted at work on the bed and they had plenty of room. That number of vessels eouhl not be set on three acres, place them side by 
side. Now the bed does not actually cover 40 acres, and is in small patches, scattered over the ground of the former bed. It has been 
worked almost to death, and it only needs one season of steamers to exterminate it entirely. 

TIlis same gentleman expressed the sentiment of many of his neighbors, too, when he wrote to the Sea World 
in 1879: 

Permit me to say that your correspondent uses sophistry in his argument that steam and machinery have the right of way, and that 
aiauual labor must quietly submit to be displaced by it. It is the right and duty of every citizen of this state to ask that the legislation 
be for the benefit of the many and not the few ; in the interests of labor rather than capital ; the weak rather than the strong ; and that 
the puL'.ic domain be reserved for the benefit of all its citizens. 


On the other hand, iu the language of the minority report referred to above : 

No evidence has been offered to show, and it has not been claimed, that similar disastrous consequences result, or have anywhere 
resulted, from the operation of dredges drawn by sailing-vessels, but, on the contrary, sailing-vessels in the act of dredging, being 
compelled to pass beyond the borders of the beds (a movement not necessary or customary in vessels controlled by steam), thereby enlarge 
the borders of the natural ground, and so far work a common public benefit. 

As to the effect of steam-dredging on the general public, it appears to ns that in the event, either of the 
monoiJoly heretofore suggested, or of the gradual extermination of the natural ojster-grounds menaced, the price of 
oysters would ultimately advance, to the detriment of the consumer. 

In addition to the foregoing considerations, and as a fact of very great consequence, it is to be observed that 
some states of the Union having large oyster-interests, particularly New York and Maryland, have totally 
prohibited steam-dredging within their waters; and other states, to wit, Ehode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, and 
Virginia, have gone even further and prohibited all dredging of every kind upon their natural beds. 

Lastly, it is asserted that one or two considerable dealers have tried steam, and given it up as unprofitable. 

Arguments in support of steam-dredging. — Opposed to this, those in favor of the use of steam as a 
motive-power in dredging, set forth the following facts and arguments : 

The number of steamers now in use is seven only, yet this small numberhas extended the cultivation, increased 
the production, and as a consequence, has materially reduced the price of oysters. 

Prior to the introduction of steam, oyster-dealers of Connecticut were obliged to purchase oysters in other states 
to su])ply the home demand; now the production within the state is sufficient, not only for local demands but also 
for a large export. A business so increasing is of benefit to the whole state, particularly in enlarging the supply 
and reducing the cost of an important article of food. 

The owners of sailing-vessels engaged in this business, and having interests on the shores of Long Island 
sound, west of Bridgeport, are the only opposers of steam, and they have local, political, and selfish reasons, outside 
of the merits of the case. Is it the duty of law-makers to pass a law prohibiting this use of steam, to the injury of 
the people of the state, to gratify the jealousy of a class, and thereby hinder the development of the oyster-culture 
and discourage enterprise and progress? In the same way the introduction of steam in the manufacture and 
transportation of cottons, woolens, grain, and for many other purposes, was bitterly opposed by those with whose 
labor it came into competition ; yet no one doubts' the wisdom of its introduction, because the sequel has proved that 
the application of steam-i)0wer to any branch of industry decreases the cost of the product. The claim that steam, 
as applied to this business, was objectionable, is eti'ecrually disposed of by these indisputable facts: 

1st. That the steamers are used by their owners on their own private beds ten months of the year. Does any 
man of sense believe they would be so used if they damaged the beds! And if the private beds are not damaged, 
how shoidd the public ground sufierf 

2d. It is ridiculous to claim that an iron bar, dragged on the bottom by steam-power, will have a materially 
difierent effect than if dragged by wind-power. Ou the contrary, the motion of a steamer is more steady and 
certain than that of a sailing-vessel, and a dredge drawn by it must, of necessity, leave the bed smoother than one 
drawn by any power less steady and certain. The dredges used by steamers are not heavier than those used upon 
the larger-sized sailing-vessels without objection by any one. " It was proved that twenty-two sailing-vessels from 
New Daven and vicinity dredged on the Bridgeport bed during 1880, using a dredge as heavy as the average dredge 
used by steam vessels."* 

3d. The "Bridgeport bed" has yielded a larger catch this last season; was greater than it has been since the 
year of its discovery. Steam-vessels had dredged all over this bed during the preceding season, and seem to have 
increased rather than diminished the size and productiveness of the bed, while many of the beds from which the 
steamers were excluded had an inferior set. 

4th. The statements made against steam have been assumptions. It has been asserted that the dredging 
ironld injure beds and oystermen not thus operating ; but no evidence appeai-s that it has hurt either in any part 
of the state. 

5th. To follow the example of New York and other states would be anti-progressive, since before they adopted 
this policy they sold thousands of bushels annually to Connecticut ; whereas now Connecticut largely supplies the 
seed for the beds in both those states. 

'These are the words of a majority report made to the Connecticut legislature in 1881, but it is extremely difficult to get at the 
truth. A year previous a letter from South Norwalk contained the following statements: 

"Sailing-vessels use dredges weighing from 15 to 3.5 pounds, which hold at the most but three peeks. Steamers use dredges weighing 
from 60 to 100 pounds, holding a barrel. One goes over the bottom lightly ; the other subsoils it, liurying everything it does not catch. 
In the fall of 1878 W. R. Lockwood's steamer worked three weeks on the Shippen bed, taking off 1,000 bushels of seed. During the entire 
summer period Adison Merrill worked with a 2-2-feet sail-boat on the same bed and caught but 500 bushels. After the steamer left sail-boats 
could not dredge at all. The bottom had been so subsoiled the light dredges tilled with sand and could not be hauled. During that 
spawning-season men with small boats worked on it a long time for the sole purpose of cleaning the bottom for the spawn. As soon as the 
spawn set the steamer came, caught, and destroyed it all. The next si)ring nothing could be caught on that bed. In the summer the 
sailing-vessels stirred it up again. The spawn set^ — Hoyt Brothers' steamer worked on it a few days and the seed was cither on their 
private beds or smothered. The same thing was done at Koton ijoiut, destroyiug that bed entirely." 


Connecticut laws regulating steam-deedging. — The existing law at the time of this controversy was 
the "Compromise Act". It allowed sailing-vessels only to dredge on natural oyster-beds west of the Bridgeport 
bed, and permitted all classes of vessels to dredge npou Bridgeport and other beds. This law was accepted as 
Batisfactory to aU interested, and was regarded as finally settling the controversy in this business between steamers 
and sail-vessels ; and, acting npon that assumption, investments have been made in steamers by various persons 
who asserted that they would suffer greatly if steam was prohibited in dredging. Nevertheless the legislature of 
Connecticut, at their spring session in 1881, adopted in place of it the following, which is now the law : 

AN ACT regulating tho dredging for shellfish and shells. 
Be it enacted, etc. 

Section 1. It shall not be lawful for any person or persons to use a boat, or any other contrivance, dragged, operated, or propelled by 
steam in taking up or dredging for oysters, oyster-shells, clams, or other shelltish in any bay, river, or other vraters within the boundaries 
or jurisdiction of this state ; Provided, however, that this section shall not be so construed as to prevent the use of steamboats in taking up, 
or dredn-iug for, oysters on private, designated grounds in any such waters, by the owners thereof. 

Sec. 2. A:iy person who shall violate the provisions of the preceding section shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be 
puni.shed, in the discretion of the court, by a fine not exceeding the sum of one hundred dollars, or by imjirisounient in the county jail not 
exceeding six months, or by such fine and imprisonment both. 

Sec. 3. Prosecutions under this act may be heard and determined by a justice of the peace, subject to the right of appeal by the 
accused to the superior court, as in other criminal cases. 

Sec. 4. All acts and jiarts of acts inconsistent herewith are hereby repealed. 

Sec. 5. This act shall take etfect from its passage, but shall not affect any suit or prosecxition now pending. 

Fkeshening oysters. — It is customary, on bringing the oysters in from deep water, to throw them overboard 
into the fresh flood of the Qiiiuepiac and "give them a drink", as the oysterman expresses it. To this purpose some 
planters devote wholly their liver lots. Others have small areas near their shore-houses where the bottom is 
X)lanked ; while some put the oysters in large floats which are moored by the wharf or shore. 

New Haven prices. — Diuing January and February of 1880 the following prices were asked at Fair Haven : 

For Virginias, clear, per gallon ' 75 to 85 cents. 

For Virginias, mixed, per gallon 90 cents to §1 00. 

For n.atives, clear, per gallon 91 OOtoJil 25. 

For natives by the bushel $1 00. 

Oyster-opening and oyster-openers. — As nearly all of the trade in Virginia oysters is carried on at Fair 
Haven, so to this locality alone is confined the business of opening the oysters for shipment to any considerable 
extent. The openers or "shuckers" are mainly women of all ages, though some men are constantly at work. 
They are mainly American in nationality, and many of them are in good circumstances and only work to provide 
themselves with pin-money. It is an occupation no refined girl would choose, nevertheless, for the whole person 
becomes at once spattered with mud and water, and the hands are inevitably bmised and lacerated beyond repair. 
The method used in opening the shell originated here, but has siu-ead elsewhere, and is kno^\ni as "breaking" or 
"cracking". The shiicker stands or sits before a stout bench (which may be a long table partitioned off into 
working spaces for each one, or may be an individual bench that can be moved about) and has her oysters in a pile 
before her. Immediately under her hand is a block of wood into which is firmly inserted an ui)right piece of iron 
abottt two inches long, one inch high, and a quarter of an inch thick, called the "cracking-iron". The shucker is 
also provided with a square-helved double-headed hammer, and a stiff sharp knife in a round wooden handle. 
On her left hand she wears a rough woolen, rubber, or leathern half-mitten, known as a "cot", to protect the skin. 
Seizing an oyster in her left hand, vriih the hinge in her ijalm, she places it npon the cracking- iron, and with one 
blow of the hammer breaks off the "bill" or growing edge of the shell. In the fractirre thus made the strong knife 
is inserted and pushed back between the meat and the shell until it cuts off the attachment of the addtictor muscle 
to the flat "upper" valve, after which, with a cpiick, dexterous twist, the other "eye" is severed, the meat tossed 
into the receptacle, which stands handy, and the shells are dropped through a hole in the bench into a barrel or tub 
placed underneath. Practice teaches extreme celerity in this operation. The knife and hammer are held in the 
same hand when the oyster is cracked, which does away with the expense of time and trouble in dropping one to 
pick iij) another ; and the knife hilts very soon have a long spiral groove worn in them by the chafing of the 
hammer-handle. The oysters, as fast as opened, are flung into a tin receptacle called a "measiue", holding five 
quarts. Much of the liquor of the mollusk also goes in with the meat, and when the measure is full it is taken to 
the foreman and poitred into the "skimmer", tlie shucker receiving in exchange a tin or brass check, entitling him. 
to a shilling or 12.J cents, at the rate of 2| cents a quart. Tliere are also "half-measures" of 2^ quarts. This is 
called " liquor" measurement ; if all the liquid was strained out only about two-thirds of the measiu'e would be 
filled. One shucker told me that five quarts of large-sized oysters counted about 175 in number. 


A good day's earnings for an oyster-opener at Fair Haven is $1 50; this, of course, is often exceeded, but tlie 
books of one firm showed nie that tlie average wages for a whole season was only about $20 per month. It very 
frerjuently happens that no work is done at one or another establishment for several days, or only a little opening 
each day. Hence about 350 openers serve the whole business by moving around. Men, as a rule, earn more than 

In regard to the population supported by the oyster-business in this neighborliood, I find it extremely difficult 
to get accurate statistics. It is a variable and partial (piantity. I estimate the number of principals— planters, 
dealers, and shippers in and about New Haven— at 125 ; of laborers (men), at 135 ; and of openers (chiefly women), 
at 340. 

Packing and shipment of oysters. — As soon as the oysters are opened they are placed in a flat pan with 
a perforated bottom, called a skimmer, where they are drained of their accompanying liquor. From time to time 
a quantity is dipped out and put into a large colander, or conical basin with perforated bottom and sides, 
which is placed over a tall cask. Here a stream of water is turned upon them, and they are stirred about until 
washed clca)i, after which they are put into wooden tubs for shipment, or tin cans for local traffic. The tubs are 
all labeled with the name of the owner, and are returned by the customer. Their covers fit with exactness, and 
lock with rivet and seal in such a way that they cannot be opened on the road without certain discovery. 

The expressage of oysters from Fair Haven to the interior of New England is so large that the afternoon ti'ains 
have one car, and sometimes two cars, devoted exclusively to the carriage of these goods. Large shijiments 
were formerly made in wagons to Albany and thence westward, especially to the large towns in central New York. 
Now these oysters go by rail, of course, but also much farther westward, even to Cincinnati, Chicago, and San 

Statistical hecapitulation fok New Haven hakboe, Connecticut : 

Number of planters, wholesale-dealers, and shippers 135 

Extent of ground cultivated acres 2,600 

Value of shore i>roperty |100, 000 

Number of vessels and sail-boats engaged : 

Steamers 2 

Sail-boats 100 

Eow-boats 150 


Value of same, about |30, 000 

Number of men hired by planters or dealers 200 

Annual earnings of same $50, 000 

Number of women hi red 275 

Annual earnings of same |30, 000 

Total number of families supported, about 400 

Annual sales of — 

I. Native oysters bushels 1^8,250 

Value of same $130,000 

II. Chesapeake "plants" bushels.... 450,000 

Value of same $350,000 

Total value of oysters sold annually - $480, 000 



Natural beds and seed oysters.— Having passed to the westward of New Haven and Milford harbors, we 
come upon a new feature of the oyster-business. This is the systematic dredging of natural beds in the sound and 
along the inlets of the shore, for seed to be placed upon the artificial beds in the eastern part of the sound, in the 
East ri\er, and on the south shore of Long Island. This department of the business will demand more and more 
attention, as I progress toward its headquarters at Norwalk. The most easterly natural bed which these dredgers 
•attack is one ott' Clark's point, just east of the mouth of Oyster river. (In Oyster river itself, by the way, no oysters 
have ever been known, within the memory of tradition, although that name appears in a map drawn prior to 1700.) 
The next natural bed consists of a reef, five acres in extent, on the western side of Pond point. Beyond that, off 
Milford point, at the mouth of the Housatonic, lies the Pompey bed, which aflorded sustenance to the sea-hut colony 
that used to frequent Milford point, and where now a crop can be gathered about once in five years. 


Upon the opposite side of the entrance to the Housatonic lies one of the principal seed-grounds in the sound ; 
that side of the Housatonic river is one vast natural oyster-bed all the way fi-om Stratford light up to the bridges, 
a distance of about three miles. There are many persons who live along the shore in Stratford, who devote almost 
their whole time to the gathering of the young oysters and selling them to the vessels, which in summer throng the 
bay. They get from 15 to 25 cents a bushel, and there are perhaps 50 men who make this a business. 

Seed-gathering- at the mouth of the IIousatonic. — In IMay sloops and small schooners begin to come 
after the seed, which is of a year's (or less) growth. They hail principally from Xorwalk and its vicinity. This fleet 
gradually increases, until in mid-summer there are soilietimes to be seen from 75 to 100 vessels at once in the 
mouth of the river. These vessels do not dredge for the seed. They anchor near the bed and send out skiffs, with 
a crew, who tong the oysters up until their skiff is full, when they take it to their vessel to be unloaded. From 
one to half a dozen skiffs are employed by ejich vessel, which is thus able to load up quickly, go home with its 
cargo, and be ready to return. To avoid any loss of time, however, in voyages back and forth, some owners of 
beds keep one or more vessels anchored in the Housatonic all the while, upon which the crews live, who load other 
vessels that are constantly passing back and forth. The rapidity of this work is shown by the fact, that one man 
with two assistants will put upon his sloop a full cargo of 500 bushels in two days, and be off and back in another 
two days, ready to go at it again. Persons who live upon the shore, and who claim to found their estimate on 
trustworthy facts, say that 400,000 bushels of seed were taken oft' these Housatonic beds between Maj" and 
November, 1879. 

Objections to present method of seed-gathering. — Notwithstanding this heavy and long continued 
drain, these nurseries do not seem in danger of depletion. Few oysters, of course, manage to reach maturity, but 
there are enough to furnish spawn to repopulate the district, which the constant scraping fits in the best possible 
manner for securing a set. The people of Stratford, however, are beginning to object to longer allowing an 
unrequited privilege to everybody to rake the beds. Such an indiscriminate crowd embiaces many loose characters, 
and frequent petty annoyances, with some serious trespasses, have occurred on shore. There seems no way to get 
rid of the nuisance, however, except to declare the whole ground available for cultiu-e, and stake it off. This is 
urged by some of the shoremen, who think they see in this plan some cliance of making the meadows and river- 
bottom a valuable property, and a blessing instead of a curse to them. This meets with considerable oi)position, 
however, and the old foolishness about "n.atural beds" seems an insurmountable obstacle. Every year the 
staking-off and cultivation of this river -bottom is delayed Stratford loses by it in a way she will one day regret. 
Stratford also possesses along her front very good deep-water ground, running from Stratford jioint to the IMiddle 
Ground, which remains to be utilized. The Housatonic seed, however, could not be utilized on this outer ground, 
since it is the long, fresh-water variety, which would not flourish in water so salt as that of the outer sound. 

Oyster-business at Bridgeport. — At Bridgeport there is a small but flourishing oyster-business, participated 
in by three firms of planters. The natural oyster-ijroducing ground off this harbor extended from Stratford to 
Black Eock, a distance of about five or six miles, but by 1850 it had become exhausted of all salable oysters, and 
even became of little value as a seed-producing area. Previously to that seven boats were owned at Bridgei)ort, 
all of which, since 1850, have been obliged to go elsewhere or change their work. Long ago, however, a Fair Haven 
man utilized ground at the point of the beach at the mouth of the harbor, to bed down southern oysters, and his 
exami)le was followed in a small degree by Bridgeport men. The first planting of native seed, however, was not 
until 1811, young oysters being brought from the Saugatuck and from Westport. At present Stratford and 
Housatonic seed is chiefly used. For opening purposes the Housatonic river seed is regarded as the best, because 
it becomes salable one year quicker than the sound seed ; but for shipping in the shell the deep-water seed produces 
more profit, though of sloM'er growth, the mature stock being single, shapely, and of large size. 

The practice of catching seed-oysters on shells prevails here with much success, but will be so fully discussed 
in a future chapter, that I refrain from doing more than mention the fact here ; and add that Mr. Wheeler Hawley, 
the largest planter at Bridgeport, believes himself to have been one of the first, if not the first, to adopt this method 
of oyster-culture in Long Island sound, putting the date of his experiments at 1853. 

Iteplying to my questions in regard to methods and cost of following this practice in this harbor, one of the 
planters informed me that, in his case, he counts expenses per acre in preparation of oyster-bottom as follows : 

500 bushels shells ("stools'') at 5 cents $25 00 

50 bushels of "spawners" (unculled) 12 00 

Total cost of seeding 37 00 

From this, he thought he ought to take up 1,000 bushels of seed to the acre of marketable oysters after two 
years, with a remainder left for the third year. The cost of taking uj) would be about 20 cents a bushel. If seed- 
oysters are bought to be i)laced upon the ground, from 25 to 00 cents a bushel must be paid for them. 

The total acreage under culti\'ation at Bridgeport, for which a rental of $2 an acre is paid to the town, is about 
110 acres. On this ground there were raised in the winter of 1879-80 about 8,000 bushels, which were mainly sold in 
the shell to New York buyers, at an average of about $1 12i a bushel. These oysters were large and iat, often 
opening six quarts to the bushel, as I was informed. In 1857 they brought $12 a barrel. 


The fleet employed by the oystermeu here consists of nine sailboats, worth, perhaps, $2,500 in total ; the care 
of the beds and running of the boats give support to about a dozen families, and occasional wages to others at 
the height of the season, the pay being about $2 a day. 

Oyster-business at Westport. — Westport, Connecticut, is a little harbor on the Saugatuck river, one of the 
most beautiful of the many charming streams that debouch along this part of the coast. The river has long been 
celebrated for the abundance, large size, and excellent flavor of its natural oysters. They grew almost continuously, 
in favorable seasons, from the mouth of the river up to the village bridge, a distance of about four miles, and the 
farmers who lived along the river were accustomed to gather them in any desired quantity, without a thought of 
exhausting the supply. The depletion came at last, however, and now few marketable oysters, native to the 
Saugatuck, are ever procured. 

Some years ago, when attention was first called to the desirability of transplanting oysters and raising them 
upon artificial beds, the Westport men staked oft' a large area at the mouth of the Saugatuclv. No ground within 
the river, however, was allowed to be assigned, the town reserving all this as " common ground", where seed might 
be gathered by poor men and everybody, to be sold to the planters. The amount of seed thus procured annually 
varies greatly with different years. The highest trustworthy estimate given me for any one year (and this not 
recently) was 50,000 bushels. Last year, however, only about 4,000 bushels were caught; half was planted locally 
and half sold to outside buyers. In midsummer a score or so of men in skifl's may often be seen in the river at 
once, raking seed-oysters, but these work only occasionally, and there are less than a dozen men who really derive 
their support "by foUowiiig the creek" (chiefly oystering), in the whole town. The seed used is between one and 
three years of age, and it is sold by the skifl'men for 35 or 40 cents a bushel. Smaller mixed stuff sometimes sells 
for 20 cents. There are only two or three sail-boats devoted to this work. 

The first eftbrts at planting were made in the mill-pond east of the village — a pond of salt water about 40 acres 
in extent. The bottom of this pond is a soft mass of mud ; not barren, clayey mud, but a flocculent mass of decayed 
vegetation, etc., apparently inhabited through and through by the microscopic life, both vegetable and animal, 
which the oyster feeds upon. Although the young oysters placed there sank out of sight in this mud, they were not 
smothered, on account of its looseness, but, on the contrary, throve to an extraordinary degree, as also did their 
neighbors, the clams and eels, becoming of great size and extremely fat. Ten years ago oysters from this pond sold 
for $3 a bushel ; and lor one lot $10 50 is said to have been obtained. Before long, however, a rough class of 
loungers began to frequent the pond, and the oysters were stolen so fast, that planting there has almost wholly 
ceased, and prices have greatly declined. 

Something over 500 acres of oyster ground have been set apart in the waters of the sound belonging to 
Westport. This ground lies in the neighborhood of Sjirite's, Hay, Calf-pasture, and Goose islands. Two-thirds of 
it is owned by Norwalk men and other non-residents, and therefore the town has derived no revenue of consequence 
from it. 

The principal planter in town is Mr. Eli Bradley, who gave me the most of the information obtained'here. He has 
been long engaged in the business, and has ijlanted many thousands of bushels of seed upon his beds, as, also, have 
his neighbors, but there has been so much litigation concerning boundaries, so much actual thieving, and so 
incessant persecution by the starfishes and drills, that not much has been realized. Last year (1879) no oysters 
whatever of consequence were placed in the market from these beds. Outsiders, however, shifted certain oysters into 
Westport waters, temporarily, and saved a good crop, the figures relating to which appear elsewhere. All the 
residents at Westport assert strongly the extreme suitability of their ground for successful oyster-raising, barring 
the damages inflicted by the starfishes, which, they think, they can keep free from with suflicient labor. 

Statistical eecapititlation for the Housatonic and Saugatuck region: 

Number of planters and shippers 6 

Exte it of grouufl cultivated acres.. 110 

Value of shore-property $3,500 

Nuniher of vessels and sail-boats engaged 12 

Value of same $3,000 

Number of men hired by planters 15 

Annual earnings of same $5,000 

Total number of families supported 21 

Annual sales of — 

Native oysters bushels.. 9,000 

Value of same $11,000 

Total value of oysters sold annually $11,000. 





East bitisr defined. — To oystermen, and for all the purposes of tlic present report, the East river is 
that narrow part of Long Island sound, at its eastern end, which extends from Hell Gate to the Norwalk islands 
on the Connecticut shore, and to Port Jeflerson on the Long Island side. It is a district very old in the annals of 
oyster-gathering and culture, and one which contributes largely to the trade. 

Early history of oystering. — Traditions concerning the beginning of oystering as a regular industry are 
very few and faint. I am indebted to Mr. Theodore S. Lowndes, of Eowayton, Connecticut, for some pleasant 

It seems not to have been until about 1S14 or 1815 that much attention was attracted to the oyster-beds of the 
East river, as a som-ce of business advantage. At that time it was considered a degrading thing to rake oysters 
for a living, yet the father of my informant, Mr. Edward William Lowndes, went energetically into the enter])rise, 
with several of his neighbors — William Price, Drake Sopers, Stephen Jennings, James Jennings, and Ijenjamin 
Totten, the last named having returned from loyal i^articipation in Commodore Perry's ^'lctory on lake Erie. 
All of these gentlemen lived on City island, and their- descendants are still to be found among the leading citizens 
of that community. At that time there was no occasion to plant oysters, the bivalves being plentiful upon their 
natural beds, and easy of access with dredges, rakes, and tongs, very similar to those now in use. Mr. Lowndes 
writes me as follows: 

The oysters caught nearest Hell Gate were in Flushing bay, between Barien's island and Fisher's point, and I've heard my father say 
that he had caught oysters below Blackwell's island, on the edge of the flats at Newtown creek, on the Long Island side, but they were 
only a small lot. 

My father was often annoyed, in his day, by local laws and prejudices against oystermen. On one occasion, as I have heard him tell, 
while he was at work oft' Shippen point, on Long Island sound, ho was taken ashore at Stamford, and had a ride given him into the country. 
When brought back his vessel was unloaded, and he was told to get out as soon as possible, which he was glad to do. On returning to 
New York, he went to the collector of the port. General Morton, who sent Captain Calhoun, conmianding a revenne cutier in the United 
States navy, to inform the captains of some packets that plied between New York and Stamford, that if any oystermen should be disturbed 
again in that locality, he would come up with the cutter and protect them; but there was no further trouble. My father was concerned 
iu several such vexatious adventures. 

Mr. Lowndes and his fellow-citizens showed it possible to work at this with so much diligence and pecuniary 
success, as to put this occupation in a more favorable light, and caused many more of their neighbors to enter it. 
The result is, that probably two-thirds of the population of City island, to-day, derive their support from the oyster- 
interests ownAl there. The same is true of the north shore of Long Island. 

Natural oyster-beds once existed in greater or less abundance aU along the shore of Westchester county. New 
York, and the opposite coast. Though the Harlem river and the region near Hell Gate have long'beeu abandoned, 
through over-raking and the unfavorable conditions which have followed the incessant commercial use of these 
waters, now within the great city of New York; a little farther up, the raking is still practiced. The passenger on 
the Harlem and New Eochclle railway, can see from the cars, the boats of men catching oysters in all the little 
nooks and corners of the coast above Port Morris, and across toward College point. The steamboats run daily 
across seed-ground, and make landings amid plantations. 

East Chester bay. — The first oyster-ground of any consequence, however, going up the river, is found in 
East Chester bay, which surrounds City Island. Off Throgg's point, at the southern end of this bay, are great 
natural banks, which have withstood long and steady raking. In these waters are the oldest artificial beds in the 
East river, for the regular planting of oysters (inaugurated, according to tradition, by Mr. Orriu Fordham) was 
begun here half a century ago. 

The planters all have their homes on City island, and are about sixty in number. In addition to these sixty 
planters, there are perhaps a dozen uu)re meu who get their living out of the business. It is safe to say, at any 
rate, that half a hundred families derive their support from the oyster-industry in this one conunnnity. 

The total production of East Chester bay, last season (ISTO-'SO), may be placed approximately at 55,000 liushels. 
In order to catch the seed of these oysters and carry them to the New York market, where all the crop is sold, 
there is owned here a fleet of one steamer, specially fitted, about 45 sloo])s, some 25 floats, and at least 100 skifls. 
All of these craft are of excellent quality, and represent a value of sometliing like $35,000, which, with an 
addition of about $5,000 for shore-property, may be taken as the amount of the investment in the industry at City 
island, exclusive of the value of the stock now lying under the water, on the various beds, and which is a sum 
hardly possible even to guess at. 

Pelham to Milton. — At Pelham, New Eochelle, Mamaroneek, Eye, and Milton, the business does not attain 
much dignity, although a large number of families, fully 100, are supported partly by it and partly by digging 


clams (mainly Mya arcnariu), catching' lol)Sters, and in other sea-shore occupations distiuct from regidar fishing. 
The ground occupied is embraced in little bays and sheltered nooks, for the most part, and is not of great extent. 
There are about 20 i)lanters, who, at an average of 250 bushels — a laige estimate, pi'ol)ably — would furnish a 
total of 5,000 bushels a year. Nearly if not quite all of this goes into the hands of peddlers, who dispose of it 
from wagons throughout the adjacent villages. Many of the planters, and some summer residents in addition, 
lay down seed wholly for juivate use. There is a large seed-bed off this part of the coast, which furnishes small 
stock, not only for local use, but for the towns both east and west. About $5,000 would no doubt cover the 
investment between City island and Port Chester. 

Port Chester. — Port Chester is the last town in the state of New York, East Chester, just across the 
bridge, belonging to Connecticut. The exact boundary of the two states was long undecided, and was the cause 
of much annoyance aiul dispute among the oystermen of the contiguous wafers, who were incessantly charging 
one another ^vlth violation of law and their neighbor's rights, by crossing the imaginary line, and so invading 
the property of the other state. In consequence of this a joint commission was appointed to settle the boundary 
between the states, the definition of which, so far as it relates to the waters of Long Island sound, is as follows : 

Beginning at a point in the center of the channel about (iOO feet south of the extreme rocks of Byram point, marked No. on the 
appended United States' coast survey chart; thence running in a true southeast course three and one-quartor statute miles; thence in a 
straight line (the arc of a great circle) northe.asterly to a point four statute miles true south of New London light-house ; thence northeasterly 
to a point marked No. 1 on the annexed United States' coast survey chart of Fisher's Island sounds, which point is in the longitude. E. 
threo-<niarters N. sailing course drawn on said map, and is about 1,000 feet northerly from the Hammock or N. Dumpling light-house ; 
thence following the said E. tliree-quarters N. sailing course as laid down on said map, easterly to a iioint marked No. 2 on said map ; 
thence sontheasterly toward a point marked No. 3 on said map, so far as said states arc continuous. Provided, however, that nothing in 
the foregoing agreement contained shall be so construed to ati'ect existing titles or properly, corporeal or incorporeal, held under grants 
heretofore made by either of said states, nor to aft'oct existing rights which said states or either of them, or which the citizens of either 
of said states, may have liy grant, letters-patent, or prescription of fishing in the waters of said sound, whether for shell or floating fish, 
irrespective of the boundary line hereby established, it not being the purpose of this agreement to define, limit, or interfere wilh auj' such 
right, rights, or privileges, whatever the same may be. 

At Port Chester and East Chester lives a considerable colony of oyster-planters. In all, about 25 families 
derive their chief maintenance from this industry; but four-fifths of the planters find it necessary to supplement 
their profits from this source by other labor, in order to get a living. The total product of the locality was about 
9,000 bushels last year, only a fraction of which is sent to New York. The price is now 80 cents for the small and 
$1 for large size. In 1878-70 it was 20 per cent., and in 1877-78, 40 per cent, higher. There are eight sloops, with 
tioats, arks, etc., owned here, which foot up an invested capital of about $7,000. 

Before leaving the New York waters of East river, however, it will be well to mention some laws applying to 
this coast. In the Eevised Statutes of 1875, under Title XI, Fisheries, are the following sections applying here, in 
addition to the general important law prohibiting steam-dredging : 

Section 5. Forbids taking oysters in Harlem river during June, July, and August. 

Sec. (5. Provides jurisdiction in case of offense against section .i. 

Sec. 7. Permits any owner or lessee of lands adjoining Harlem river to plant oysters in fiont of their property, where the gronnd is 
not occupied ; but he must put up a plain sign, stating (with owner's name) that this is a private oyster-bed. No person except the owner 
shall take up oysters on such ground. Penalty, $50. 

Sec. 8. Empowers constables of either Westchester or Ncnv York counties to seize boats and imi^Icments of ofionders against section 7. 

Sec. 9. Defines how arrests are to l)e made and offenders iirosecuted. 

Greenwich. — The next point eastward is Greenwich, where, at Greenwich, Old Greenwich, Greenwich cove, 
Cos Cob, and Mianus, a large business is done and a large number of persons is engaged, though oysters are not 
now raised here to as great an extent nor of so fine quality as formerly. 

The months of all the rivers and each of the many coves that indent this rocky coast are filled with planted 
oysters, though a general feeling of discouragement, arising from various causes, prevails. In all about 800 acres 
are under cultivation, all in shallow water, and the total annual prodiutt for last year, of the whole region, may be 
set down at 33,0!)0 bushels, the majority of which was taken to New York in the boats of the respective owners, and 
sold to the dealers at the foot of Broome street. 

The number of families supported in this township, out of this occupation, it is hard to state. I estimate it at 
about forty. The craft employed amounts to one steamer, about .'!0 sloops, and perhaps 100 small open boats. 
These, with other estimated fixtures, foot up an invested capital api^roaching $30,000, exclusive of oysters now 
growing on the beds. 

Stajiford. — The next oyster-producing point is Stamford, where, also, I found the planters bewailing the 
decline of their fortunes. The number of men raising oysters is about a dozen, and perhaps as many more are 
employed. From about 150 acres of improved harbor-bottom Stamford yielded for market, in 1879, about 5,500 
bushels of oy.sters, the majority of which was shipped to New York. Their fleet counts up 9 sloops, which, with 
boats, floats, and so forth, are stated to be worth about $15,000. The principal men at Stamford are A. M. Prior 
and Capt. John De(;ker. 

Darien and Rowayton. — At Darien, three miles beyond, about 3,000 bu.shels a year are sold from about 250 
acres. They have ten or a dozen sail-boats, and a value in oyster-interests, generally, of perhaps $5,000. 


The next point is the very important station known as Five-Mile-Eiver or Eowayton, where the cultivation of 
oysters has been systematically pursued for many years. In all, at present, there are about 35 i)lantors or firms, 
and nearly or quite as many families are supported. The little creek-mouth is perfectly filled with oyster-boats, 
and the other conveniences of this pursuit. I find upon my list of the oyster-fleet 28 sloops and sail-boats, which 
belong here, some of them very large and well built. I estimate the value of these "sail" and the other floating 
and shore-property at Eowayton, directly concerned in the oyster-trade of the port, at not far from $30,0(10. 
Eowayton produced, in 1879, which was considered a very poor year, something near 50,000 bushels. How far 
beneath occasional crops, if not beneath the recent average, this is, is shown by the statement made to me, that 
about five years ago a single dealer in New York city bought 32,000 bushels of Eowayton oysters. Little of the 
stock raised at this point fails to reach New York, and within the last three years Eowayton has sup])lied a large 
proijortion of the oysters sent to Europe, partly by direct shipment. Like all other parts of the East river, the 
oysters are sold here wholly in the shell; and almost always by the barrel or bushel — the selling' "by count" 
belonging to the region further west and to the Long Island shore. 

South Noewalk. — Just eastward of Eowayton lies the city and harbor of South Norwalk, one of the most 
imi^ortant oyster-producing localities in Long Island sound, as well as one of the "oldest". The bay at the mouth 
of the Norwalk rfver is tilled with islands, which protect the shallow waters from the fury of the gales. This whole 
bay, in old days, was full of native oysters from the sound, all the way up to Norwalk itself. Long before the 
elaborate means for growing oysters, at present in vogue, were thought of, therefore, Norwalk supplied the people 
of that region with fine, large, natural oysters, just as it had for centuries been a storehouse of shellfish food to 
the Indians, the remains of whose feasts and feasting-places are still to be found. 

About forty years or more ago, however, the natural beds in the vicinity of Norwalk harbor had becom.e so 
depleted that they no longer aftbrded to anybody employment that amounted to anything; nor was it until toward 
the year 1850 that any transjilautation of seed, or anything in the shape of the propagation, was attemi)ted. The 
business of oyster-growing here, therefore, which at first sight seems of immemorial age, is only about thirty years 
old. The history of its growth need not be given here. It will be sufficient to publish the statistics I liave 
accumulated in regard to the present status of the business at this point. 

The principal planters and shippers at South Norwalk (with which I include its suburb, Village Creek) are the 
Hoyt Brothers, Graham Bell, Oliver Weed, C. Eemsen, Eaymond & Saunders, Peter Decker, the Burbanks, and 
several others who raise more than 1,000 bushels a year. In addition to these there are many men who have small 
beds, which they keep increasing as fast as circumstances permit, and who make a part of their living by working 
at wages for planters whose operations are more extensive than their own. There is one firm, for instance, which 
employs the services of 18 or 20 men nearly all the time, and in some seasons largely increases this number. These 
smaller planters sell their little crops of from 100 to 1,000 or 1,500 bushels to the half a dozen shippers, chief among 
whom are the Hoyt Brothers and Mr. G. Bell, wisely preferring cash, at a small discount, to the trouble and risk of 
themselves taking their oysters down to New York, or elsewhere, in hopes of a slightly larger price. During the 
present season (1879-'S0) the price paid at the boats has averaged about $1, taking little and big together. The 
culling, as a rule, is done afterward, and the prices the shippers have received, after culling and packing, have 
been as follows — it is understood, of course, that these are sold in the sheU and shipped in barrels, going chiefly to 
New York : 

Per hundred. Per IjarreL 

Extras $1 40 |5 25 

Box 90 to 1 00 5 25 

Culls 45to 50 4 25 

Cullenteens 35 4 25 

Barrels are valued at 25 cents eaoli. 

The total number of bushels produced in 1879 (to which time my statistics refer for the sake of completeness), 
as well as this year (ISSO), makes a sum which is asserted to tall far short of what is considered an average or 
a high estimate. Nearly every man said to me: "Well, this year was a poor one." How much of this is to be 
attributed to modesty and a timid desire to behttle the figures, and how much is truth, it is hard to tell. I am 
inclined to think it pretty nearly true. Prices, at the same time, are much lower than formerly, owing to the 
unusually poor quality of the oysters of these waters this year and last; but I do not think that this is a permanent 
depreciation in fatness and excellence of taste (as I fear is the case from Stamford to Port Chester), but only a 
temporary misfortune. Between scarcity and inferiority, the oystermen of Norwalk find themselves much less 
cheerful just now than they are wont to be. The total production of this locality, during the season of 1878-'79 (the 
present season, 1880, will probably be found not greatly to differ from it), is given at about 65,000 bushels. 

These oysters, as I have said, were the property of 50 planters, which gives an average of 1,300 bushels to each 
one. It is probable, however, that as many more persons got their living out of these oysters, from first to last, so 
that I do not hesitate to say that 100 families in South Norwalk and its immediate vicinity, are supported by the 
cultivation and sale of oysters there. The estimate of 200 families, which I have often heard made, is undoubtedly 
too high. This question is ever a hard one to answer, because, in many cases, the head of the family depends only 


partially upon his professional means of support, the attention he pays to it and the income he derives, varying 
with each good or bud season. Most oystermen are also farmers or iisherraen. Many of them, also, keeiJ summer 
hotels, and thus add largely to their income during the dull season at the beds. 

Every sui>i>osed available spot for oyster-operations, probably, is now set apart for that purpose, not only 
inside of the Norwalk islands, but also in the outside waters of the sound off the mouth of the harbor. Only a 
portion of this is in use, however; in all, about 080 acres out of 2,300, in round numbers, which have been desiguated 
in Norwalk harbor. The average ])roduction at present, therefore, is less than 100 bushels to the acre of land 
actually cultivated, and only about 28 bushels to the acre of bottom held for the purpose of oyster-cultivation. I 
see no reason why future years ought not to see ten times as large a projjortiou. 

The fleet of Norwalk used by the oystermen in their business, consists of 2 steamboats, a dozen sloops, and 
about 30 sharpies and sailboats, of less size and value than the "sloops", most of them being without decks. 
Besides this there are skiffs innumerable. This disparity in the number of large sloops between so important a 
place as Norwalk and some of the small ports westward, is explained by the fact that the planters here do not often 
themselves take their goods to New York. 

What shall be given as the amount of the investment at South J^orwalk is a difficult question. The answer 
can hardly be more than guessed at. There are several large warehouses and offices devoted* to the work. 
Extensive wharves have been built, and arrangements for landing are made. Thei'e are 25 or 30 "arks", as they 
are termed, or floating oyster-hoiises, made by housing in half a canal-boat, a scow, or some old hulk, and there is an 
extensive outfit of boats and tools. I judge that the following table represents nearly the truth of the case: 

2,300 acres oyster-ground, worth $6, 000 

Sliore-property for busiuess-use 10, 000 

."Arks" and scow-houses 5, 000 

Sloops aud other boats 2"), 000 

Steamers (i, 000 

Floats, diedges, tools, etc 3,000 

55, 000 

This, of course, leaves out all estimate upon the value of the oysters now upon the beds, or the money which 
has been spent (aud suuk) in improvement, up to this time. This is a matter which it would be exceedingly difficult 
to ascertain, and of small importance, because constantly varjing and undecided. I suppose about $50,000 a 
year are reinvested in the beds at Norwalk, counting the time of the planters as so much money ; if it were cash 
expended, however, instead of their own labor, they could not follow it. Few can afford to hire help, except 
occasionally, for a few days at a time. Wages, in that case, are from $1 to $2 per day. 

Saddle-rock oysters. — From a particular part of Norwalk harbor, many years ago, came to Tom Donan's 
famous old shop in Broad street. New York, the original " Saddle-rocks", named from the reef around which they 
grew. These oysters were so large that 25 would fill a bushel basket; yet they were tender aud luscious, and 
often sold for from 15 to 30 cents apiece. But they were not very numerous, and the raking of them was so 
profitable that the supply was quickly exhausted. Like the generous host who gave them name and fame, they 
have long ago departed, except from the brandiug-irou aud sign-board of the dealer, whose " Saddle-rocks " now 
may have come from anywhere except Xorwalk. 

That is the story as I was told it at South Norwalk ; since writing it I have seen an article on the subject, taken 
from the Few Yorlc Observer, and vouched for by the Eev. Samuel Loekwood, who speaks of the writer as " our 
friend, Dr. O. R. Willis ". This article places Saddle rock on the opposite shore of the sound. It reads thus : 

The original Saddle-rock oyster was not only very large, but possessed a peculiar, delicious flavor, which gave it its reputation. 
And it received its name because it was discovered near a rock known as Saddle rock. A high northwest wind, continued for several 
successive days, always causes very low tides in Long Island sound and ita bays. On the form of David Allen, situated near the head of 
Groat Neck, on the eastern slioro of Little Neck bay, Ls a rock about 20 feet high, and from 15 to 20 feet in diameter. The shape of the 
top of this rock resembles somewhat the form of a saddle, and from that circumstance is called Saddle rock. At low water the upper or 
land side of this rock is left bare, while the opposite or lowor side is in the water. In the autuuni of 1827, after a strong northwest wind 
had been blowing for three days, a very low tide occurred, aud the water retreated far below the rock, leaving a space wide enough for a 
team of oxen to pass quite around it. This extraordinary low tide revealed a bed of oysters below the rock. The oysters were very 
large, and possessed the most delicate flavor ; we collected cart-loads of them, and placed them in our mill-pond (tide-mill). The news 
of the discovery spread among the oystermen, and Tjoat -loads soon found their way to the city, where, oh account of their excellent flavor, 
they commanded fancy prices, even reaching §10 a hundred! — an enormous price for those days. In a very short time the locality was 
exhausted, aud for more than forty years (here has not been a real Saddle-rock oyster in the market. 

South shore of East river. -On the southern side of Long Island sound the " East river" extends as far 
as Port Jefferson, which lies nearly opposite Bridgeport. Beginning at the jSTan-ows above HeU Gate, as before, 
we find the remains of ancient native oyster-beds all ah)ng the shore. This was one of the favorite points of 
market sui)ply for New York years ago. Its traditions remaiu, as witnessed by the followiug paragrai>h from 
DeVoe's Market Assistant : 

In the montli of September, 1859, a discovery of a great oyster-bed was made at Eaton's Neck, on the Long Island shore, by five 
fishermen from Darieu, Connecticut. It is stated that " they found themselves too far out, and dropping overboard an oyster-dredge to 


■bring their boat to anchor", when ready to draw it in again on board, they fonnd it very heavy, and after raising it to the surface they had 
it filled with fine large oysters, when they soon loaded their boat, and entered into a mutual compact of secrecy, but it was broken ; the 
information was sold [for .$500], and the valuable discovery was soon made public. Thousands of bushels were taken and replanted, and 
those which were planted in deep water produced some extra fine Large oysters, which found a ready sale in our markets. 

For help in calculating the oyster-riches of tliis southern shore of the East river, I am indebted to the labors 
of Mr. Frederick Mather, of the United States Fish Gommissiou, who also acted as a special agent of the Census 

Flushing bay and vicinity. — The first point, beginning at the western extremity, is Flushing bay. Twenty 
men are engaged here iu oystering and clamming, almost inseparable employments along this shore. There are 
oyster-beds staked out here, worth, counting seed and appliances, $8,000, and they produced last year 10,000 bushels 
of oysters. Six boats of foiu- or fl^'e tons, cat-rigged, are employed. In addition to this four men, supporting three 
families, oyster in Flushing bay, but live at College Point, and sent to market 8,000 bushels last year, using two 
boats. All shipments are by boat. 

In Little Neck bay the oyster-beds are free of cost, but are staked off in private claims and planted, a condition 
respected by neighbors, but giving no legal sanction. The seed is obtained from near by, and is worth 25 cents a 
bushel. "There is a desire," says Mather, "on the part of some of the oystermen to pay for their grounds and 
get some protection in return. Now their only claim is on the seed, and they can sue or jirosecute a man for 
stealing that. I found a great difference of opinion among the oystermen on the bay in regard to the laws. Some 
holding that the statutes did, and others that they did not, protect the claimants of oyster-beds. A man's heirs 
claim his beds and the claim is respected, but it does not appear that the beds are salable in the sense of giving 
a deed for a consideration. In a discussion on this point, which I encouraged iu order to get at the facts, one man 
said, derisively : ' 1 would like to see a good bed found and have the town attempt to sell it. There'd be fun, and 
somebody would get hurt, sure, for when there's a find we all go for it, and the one that gets the most is the best 
fellow.' " 

One of the towns on this bay is Whitestone, from whence 4,500 bushels of oysters are sent ; another is Little 
Neck, where 30 men make a living by oystering and clam-flshing, and raise an annual crop of 10,000 bushels. 
One slooiJ, over 20 tons, and seven over 5 tons, are engaged. 

Geeat Neck and vicinity. — At Great Neck there is considerable business — about 5,000 bushels a year, 
■which go to market in boats owned at Little Neck. 

Off this coast, between Great Neck and Hell Gate, are very persistent natural beds of oysters, which annually 
furnish fair raking-ground, whence the planters in tlie ^'icinity obtain nearly all their seed. In the lower part of the 
river the oil and deposits from the petroleum refineries at Hunter's Point, have injured or whoUy destroyed the beds. 
The best ground is directly in the steamboat channel, where the cinders falling from the innumerable freight, 
" sound line", and excursion steamers that pass daily, furnish a capital cnltch for the oyster-spat to attach itself 
to. This ground is gradually extending itself into a productive tract half way to Norwalk. The seed lies 
particularly thick here in a bed about three miles long, off Eaton's Neck. In summer this whole region is excellent 
clamming- ground. I have counted 100 boats, doing well, at once between Sea Cliff and Throgg's Neck. Many 
boats had two men, and this number was not unusual. This scraping of the bottom with the big, deep-cutting, 
dredge-like clam-rake undoubtedly contributes to the growth of young oysters as well as young clams there, by 
preparing the ground to retain the spawn, which is at that very season floating about. 

For oysters raised west of Great Neck, buying agents of New York houses paid the planters last season an 
average price of 75 cents per bushel. 

Port Washington. — Port Washington, on the other hand, a village upon Cow bay, in one of the most 
beautiful districts of Long Island, is the seat of a very large oyster-planting interest. It is a fine sight to look 
down from the hill upon the bay, crowded with its miniature shipping, dotted by the large floats which are anchored 
all along the shore, and its sunny surface enlivened by countless small boats moving about here and there in eager 
haste. At the wharves are usually to be found two or three sloops from New York buying oysters, with the names 
and advertisements of their owners painted in huge black letters on the broad mainsail ; or at a favorable condition 
of season and tide the whole trim fleet spreads its canvas and sweeps out to the dredging-grounds in beautiful 

It is more than thirty-five years since George Mackey first began the planting of oysters in this bay; now 
this industry is the main business in the town, and commands two-thirds of all the influence — out of 320 voters on 
the rolls, liOO being oystermen. Nearly all of these are heads of families, and as representative names I might 
mention the Mackeys, the Jar\dses, J. J. Thompson, A. Thatcher & Co., Thomas Allen, Peter H. Holt, J. Van Pell, 
and various others. In order to carry on their business they have, perhaps, $10,000 worth of shore-fixtures, and 
from $40,000 to $50,000 worth of floating property, embraced in 70 sloops and sailboats, averaging $500 in value, 
and in floats, skiffs, tools, etc. The amount of ground under use it would be impossible to say — I could get no 
notion of it^ — since it is scattered and is not measured for allotment as it is in Connecticut. Guessing at it, I should 
say there are 2,000 acres. The water is tolerably shallow — 28 feet is the deepest told me of— and tongs are mainly used. 
The bottom, almost universally, is nuuldy, and no spring-shifting is resorted to. The total production last year (and 


substantially the same will be true of 1880) was 75,000 bushels. These were sold on the spot, for the most part, to 
New York buyers, who paid an average of 75 cents a bushel. The yield of these beds this year was said to be 
unusually good, both in quantity and quality. These oysters were sold mainly at home, to biiyers who came in 
sloo])S from jSTew York. AVhen disposed of by the bushel, they brought an average of 75 cents, or even less. 
Culled out and sold carefully by count, as was done often, the prices were : For the largest, $0 per 1,000 ; medium 
size, §3 per 1,000; poorest, 81 per 1,000. One firm alone in New York, at the Broomestreet wharves, is reputed 
to have taken over 10,000 bushels. Formerly they must have paid 20 per cent, more than the schedule of prices 
given abo^'e. 

Hempstead bay and vicinity. — Hempstead bay seems to be not so prolific in molUiscan life as the preceding 
indentations of the coast. The planters go elsewhere for seed. In IJosIyn about 30 men occasionally rake oysters 
and clams, and half as many families are thus partially supported. The year's catch is reported at 15,0(J0 bushels. 

At Glenhead .50 men are in the oyster and clam business, supporting 35 families. The product was about 
15,000 bushels in ISSO, nearly all of which went to New York by boat. 

Glen Cove is the home of 15 oystermen, who say they have $5,000 invested at present in seed-oysters, and $2,500 
more in b(->ats and tools. The shipment is wholly by water, and amounts to 20,000 bushels annually. 

Concerning the next inlet. Oyster bay, JVIr. Jlather writes that "it is a famous locality for oysters, and 
notwithstanding that the line between Queens and Snfiblk counties strikes the bay at its eastern end, leaving 
Cold Spring on one side and the other villages on the other, the same law prevails. The oyster-beds are leased by 
the towns at 50 cents an acre; number of acres not limited. Some oystermen object to this, and a few of the 
principal ones refuse to pay, but stake oft' their claims and hold them by force. About three-fourths of the bay is 
staked oft', and tlie greater i)ortion is ])lanted. The seed is obtained from Bridgeport, Connecticut, at 25 cents per 
bushel of (averaging) 5,000 oysters. It is not necessary to boy much when the spawn 'sets', as it did this year 
[18S0] and last. A few shipments are made by rail, but mainly by boat, and a few have been packed for Europe." 

Bayviite is the first village on Hempstead bay to be considered, its railway station being Locust Valley. The 
oyster-interests here are said to contain an investment of $00,000, and 00,000 bushels go to markets in New York and 
Connecticut annually. As the yearly revenue from this is only $15,000, a large portion must be designed to seed 
other beds. The sheUflsheries are said to support here about 75 families, and many women find irregular 
employment in opening oysters and clams. Thirteen sloops, of from 30 to 10 tons each, are employed, the total 
value of which is $13,000; 4 cat-boats, $100; and 100 row-boats, at $15, $1,500, making a grand total value of 
$11,900. Much of this is employed in clamming, however. 

At Oyster bay, $25,000 are invested in oyster-beds, and 75,000 bushels of oysters are taken annually. There 
are 23 sailing-boats, large and small, owned by these men, and to a large extent, at least, devoted to oysteriug 
and clamming, which together are estimated as worth $15,000. 

In Cold Spring there are 45 men oysteriug in the season, half of whom have families. The harbor is three 
miles long by one mile wide, and three-fourths of it, or about 500 acres, is planted Avith oysters. The total 
shipments reported from these beds in 1880, amounted to 25,000 bushels. Most of these went to New York by 
boat, except in freezing weather, when the lailroad carried some. Seven sloops, counting 50 tons in all, and worth 
$0,000, belong at this port. 

Huntington bay and vicinity. — Crossing over now to Huntington bay, another good mollusk-district is met 
with. The principal town is Huntington, which is well landlocked. Here the investment amounts to about $8,000, 
and $1,800 in small boats, by means of which 15,000 bushels of oysters are got up for market yearly. Perhaps 20 
families are thus supported. 

Centreport contributes a larger corps of general fishermen and oystermen, 100 men being reported as engaged 
in the season, GO of whom are married. Twenty-five sail-boats belong here, and are worth $15,000; while $100,000 
are said to be invested in oyster-beds, that yield 50,000 bushels annually. 

In Northport and East Northport, 15 men are engaged, half having families, but their additional investments 
and contributions are already accounted for above. 

Very large interests are owned in Hirntington bay by the Lowndes Brothers and others, of Norwalk, Connecticut, 
but the yield of their beds is not considered in the present account, because already counted at Norwalk. The 
ground is leased under loL-al regulations at 50 cents a year per acre ; and there is no tax upon it until it becomes 
of distinct value to the owner. The town treasuries receive a considerable revenue from this source. Should all 
lessees pay proi)erly, the sum would be larger; but here, as frequently elsewhere, a legal doubt exist? as to the 
right of the town of Northport to rent the bottom of the bay, since these waters and the bottom are claimed by 
the adjoining town of Huntington, under charters from King George III. The matter now is pending decision in 
suit. A similar plea on the part of Brookhaven, in respect to the eastern end of the Great South bay, has been 
upheld by the courts, notwithstanding that the land fronting on much of the water in question was long ago set 
apart from Brookhaven into the town of Islip. 

The oyster-interests of Smithtown bay are very small, and chiefly centered at Stony Brook, where there are 
10 sloops, worth $10,000, employed, and a further oyster-investment of about $20,000. Tiie amount of oysters sold 
last year was 18,000 bushels. Out ot the proceeds of this, large clam-grounds, and some fishing, .300 persons made 
a li\ ing liere. * 


Poet Jefferson harbor. — Going over to Port Jefferson harbor, we find several villages nnited in the 
improvement of a single piece of water. At Setauket are two planters, with two sloops, $3,000 invested, and 
3,000 bushels produced. At East Setauket 50 men go oystering, 35 of whom are heads of families. There are 
$25,000 invested in the beds here, but business has been poor of late, only 30,000 bushels having been taken. 
From Port Jefferson 35 men are engaged on the bay, of whom 20 are married. The oyster-ground here is leased 
by tlie town at $3 an acre, and only four acres allowed each planter. This is the first season any systematic 
planting has been done, the seed being obtained li'om the Connecticut shore. At Mount Sinai, a little beyond, 
800 bushels of oysters were sold in 1880. This is the last point of oyster-culture on the north shore of Long 
Island ; beyond, the coast is abrupt and uncut by those sheltered and shallow bays so suitable for the business, 
with which the western end of the island is furnished. 

General condition op the oyster-business on the north shore of Long Island. — In conclusion, some 
words of explanation or caution should be uttered in respect to the statistical statements rehating to this north shore. 
The large array of men engaged (806), families supported (500), and sailing-craft (105) in irse, does not compare well 
with the total of bushels raised, which is only 377,500, worth from $300,000 to $350,000. But it must be remembered 
that, in the large majority of cases, the oystermen are also farmers, and besides are engaged in the menhaden-fishing 
and various other sorts of seine-fishing ; while they add to their income from their oyster-beds something like $250,000, 
derived from the sale of about 181,000 bushels of quahaugs, or hard clams, and 293,000 bushels of soft clams, 
annually. It therefore happens that many, most, indeed, of the " oystermen", are really at work only a portion 
of their tim.e. 

'New York oyster-laws, applicable to East river. — Certain enactments by the legislature of New York 
must be quoted, applying to the East river and the north shore of Long Island. These are substantially as follows : 

Any person -nho shall * * * in any manner catch, interfere with, or tlisturb the oysters of another now or hereafter lawfully 
planted upon the bed of any of the rivers, bays, sounds, or other waters within the jurisdiction of this state, shall be deemed guilty of a 
misdemeanor. Penalties, fine not exceeding $250, imprisonment not more than six months, or both. 

No person who has not been a resident of the state for six months may rake or gather clams, oysters, or shellfish, in any waters of 
this state ; but an actual resident may employ any person to gather shellfish for his benefit. 

No dredging for clams or oysters within the state "with a dredge, oj)erated by steam-power ", is permitted, and 
no dredges are to be used exceeding thirty pounds in weight. 

In the general statutes the following sections apply to Queens county: 

Section 78. Persons who have been for six months or more inhabitants of Queens county, may plant oysters in any of the pnblic 
waters of that county, except Hempstead harbor, Jamaica and Hempstead bays, and Oyster bay harbor; and may acquire exclusive 
ownership of such beds. 

Sec. 79. Any person as aforesaid may use land nnder public waters in Queens county, as aforesaid, " not to exceed three acres in 
a bed, and on which there is no natural or jilanted beds of oysters, for the purpose of planting oysters thereon"; but he mnst clearly mark 
and define the i)ortion so selected by him, as a notice to the public, and shall not hold possession unless he puts oysters upon it, within 
six months, to the extent of at least 50 bushels to the acre. 

Sec. 80. Forbids any persons taking or disturbing oysters on beds mentioned in section 79. 

Sec. 81. Penalty for violation of section 80, fine not to exceed $;100, or CO days in prison, or both. 

Sec. 82. Process of arrest and trial. 

Sec. 83. Oyster-ground is forfeited in Queens county by ceasing to use it for one year, or at the end of two years from his removal 
from residence in the county. 

Sec. 84. Forbids dredging for oysters in any waters of Queens county, except in Oyster bay harbor, and in Cow bay ; and no person, 
unless a resident of North Hempstead, shall dredge in Cow bay. Penalty, fine not exceeding IglOO, imprisonment not over 60 days, or 
both. * 

Sec. 85. Repeals previous laws inconsistent. 

Sec. 8(5. "The natural growth or bed of oysters in * * * Little Neck bay, in s.iid [Queens] county, is hereby defined as being 
between low- water mark and a distance of 500 feet therefrom, into the waters of said bay toward its center, beyond which, in the planting 
of oysters » * » the word 'natural' shall not apply." 

Methods of oyster-culture.— The East river is the scene of probably the most painstaking and scientific 
oyster-culture in the United States, and the methods in use there merit careful notice. It is impossible to ascertain 
when it first became a custom there to transplant oysters from the abundant natural beds along the shore to staked-in 
tracts off shore, nor is it of much importance to inquire. Probably the very first of this was done in the Harlem 
river. Half a century ago, however. City island was populated by oystermen ; and in 1853 the New Yorli Herald 
reported that the largest proportion of all the East river oysters, used in New York, came from there, "where there 
are extensive artificial and natural beds". The same article stated that then City island owned a fourth of the 
100 boats engaged in conveying East river oysters to the metropolis, and that 100 men and families on the island 
obtained a living by oystering. The whole amount of property invested there was estimated at $1,000,000. This 
included the value of the beds, and was supposed to represent one-third of the capital of all the East river interest. 

• Section 84 was repealed by chapter 402, laws of 1879, " in so far as the same relates to the waters of the county of Queens, lying on 
the norlJi side thereof, except that portion of the waters of Hempstead harbor lying south of a line drawn from the center of Sea Clilf 
dock, on the east side of said harbor, to the center of Mott's dock on the west side thereof." 


This writer asserts that twenty ye<irs previous — which wovihl make it about 1833 — ^East river oysters were almost 
unknown in New York markets ; and that it was not until about 1843 that any planting was engaged in. The 
character of this planting is not indicated ; but I have no doubt that, whatever was the date of its origin, the 
credit of first truly propagating oysters from seed caught u])on artificial beds or prepared receptacles, belongs to 
the men of City island. It had been a matter of common observation, that any object .tossed into the water in 
summer, became covered at once with infant oysters. The sedges along the edge of the marshes, and the buoys, 
stakes, and wharfjiiles were similarly clothed. If the circumstances were favorable, this deposit survived the 
winter, and the next spring the youngsters* were large enough to be taken and trans])laiited. It was only a short 
step in logic, therefore, to conclude, that if objects were thrown thickly into the water, on purpose to catch the 
floating spawn, a large quantity of young oysters would be secured, and could be saved for transjilanting at very 
slight expense. The next question Avas: What would best serve the purpose? Evidently nothing could be better 
than the shells which, year by year, acciimulated on the shore from the season's opening trade. They were the 
customary resting-places of the spawn, and at the same time were cheapest. The City island oysterman, therefore, 
began to save his shells from the lime-kiln and the road master, and to spread them on the bottom of the bay, 
hoping to saA'e some of the oyster-spawn with which his imagination densely crowded the sea- water. This happened, 
1 am told, more than fifty years ago, and the first man to put the theory into practice, it is remembered, was the 
father of the Fordham Brothers, who still pursue the business at City island. In 1855, Captain Henry Bell, of Bell's 
island, planted shells among the islands off the mouth of Norwalk river, and a short time after, under the protection 
of the new law of 1855, recognizing private property in such beds, Mr. Oliver Cook, of Five-Mile river, Mr. Weed, 
of South Norwalk, Mr. Hawley, of Bridgport, and others, went into it on an extensive scale. Some of these 
gentlemen appear never to have heard of any previous oi^erations of the sort. Discovering it for themselves, as 
it was easy and natural to do, they supposed they were the originators ; but if any such credit attaches anywhere, 
I believe it belongs to the City island men. It was soon discovered that uniform success was not to be hoped for, 
and the steady, magnificent crops reaped by the earliest planters were rarely emulated. Many planters, therefore, 
decried the whole scheme, and returned to their simple trausiilauting of natural bed seed; but others, with more 
consistency, set at work to improve their chances, by making more and more favorable the opportunities for an 
oyster's egg successfully to attach itself, during its brief natatory life, to the stool jirepared for it, and afterward to 
live to an age when it was strong enough to hold its own against the weather. This involved a closer study of the 
general natural history of the oyster. 

_ The first thing found out was, that the floating spawn would not attach itself to, or " set" (in the vernacular of 
the shore), upon anything which had not a clean surface; smoothness did not hinder — glass-bottles were frequently 
coated outside and in with young shells — but the surface of the object must not be slimy. It was discovered, too, 
that the half-sedimentary, half- vegetable deposit of the water, coating any submerged object with a slippery film, 
was acquired with marvelous speed. Thus shells laid down a very few days before the spawiiiug-time of the oysters, 
became so slimy as to catch little or no spawn, no matter how much of it was floating in the water above them. This 
taught the oystermen that they must not spread theii- shells until the midst of the spawning-season; that one step 
was gained when they ceased spreading in May and waited until July. Now, from the 5th to the 15th of that 
month is considered the proper time, and no shell-planting is attempted before or after. This knowledge of the speed 
with which the shells became slimy was turned to account in another way. It was evident that the swifter the 
current the less would there be a chance of rapid folding. Planters, therefore, chose their ground in the swiftest 
tideways they coidd find. 

The mere manner of spreading the shells was also found to be important. If they are rudely dumped over, 
half their good is wasted, for they lie in heaps. The proper method is to take them from the large scow or sloop 
which has brought them ashore, in small boat-loads. Having anchored the skiff, the shells are then flu-ted 
broadcast in all directions, by the shovelful. The next boat-load is anchored a little farther on, and the process 
repeated. Thus a thin and evenly-distributed layer is spread over the whole ground. Just how many bushels a 
man wiU place on an acre depends upon both his means and his judgment. If he is shelling entirely new ground, he 
wiU spread more than he woidd upon an area already improved ; but I supi)ose 250 bushels to the acre might be' 
recommended as an average quantity. Having spread his shells in midsunnuer, the planter, by testing them early 
in the fall, can tell whether he has succeeded in catching upon them any or much of the desired spawn. The young 
oysters will appear as minute flakes, easily detected by the experienced eye, attached to all parts of the old shell. 
If he has got no set whatever, he considers his investment a total loss, since by the next season, the bed of shells 
will have become so dirty that the spawn will not take hold if it comes that way. Supposing, on the contrary, 
that young oysters are found attached in millions to his cultch, as often happens, crowding upon each old sheU 
until it is almost hidden, what is his next step ? 

•There is no word in the northern states for infant oysters, except the terms "set", "spat", "spawn", etc., all of which belong 
originally to the eggs or spawn of the oyster, and not to the young, hut are frequently and confusedly applied as well to the half-gromi 
niollusks. In the south the name "blister" (referring to its smooth, puffed-iip appearance) is given to the infant oysters, and serves to 
distinguish them from "seed", "ciUlens", and "oysters", which represent the successively larger sizes and stages of growth. 


The ordinary way in the East river and elsewhere, is simply to let the bed remain quiet, until, in the course 
of three or foiu- years, such oysters as have survived are large enough to sell, when the bed is worked — at first, 
probably, with tongs and i-akes, getting up the thickest of the crop. This done, dredges are put on, and 
everything that remains — oysters, shells, and trash — is removed and the ground left clean, ready for a second 
shelling, or to be planted with seed, perhaps right away — perhaps after the area has lain fallow, exposed uncovered 
to the influences of the sea for a year. Oystermen have an idea (probably well founded, though badly theorizeil 
upon) that this improves the bottom for oyster-culture, as much as a similar rest would the soil of an upland field 
for agriculture. 

In the process of growth of the young oysters lodged upon the fields of cultch, when left undisturbed, there is, 
and must of necessity be, a great waste under the most favorable circumstances. Leaving out all other adversities, 
this will arise from over- crowding. More " blisters " attach themselves upon a single egg than can come to maturity. 
One or a few will obtain au accession of growth over the rest, and crowd the others down, or overlap them 
fatally. Even if a large number of young oysters attached to a single stool do grow up together equally, their close 
elbowing of one another wiU probably result in a close, crabbed bunch of long, slim, unshapely samples, of no value 
save to be shucked. To avoid these misfortunes, and, having got a large quantity of young growth, to save as 
much as possible of it, the more advanced and energetic of the planters, like the Hoyts, of o^orwalk, pursue the 
foUowing plan : When the bed is two years old, by which time all the young oysters are of sufficient age and 
hai'diness to bear the removal, coarse-netted dredges are put on, and all the bunches of oysters are taken up, 
knocked to pieces, and either sold as "seed", or redistributed over a new i)ortion of bottom, thus widening the 
planted area, and at the same time leaving more room for those single oysters to grow which have slipped through 
the net and so escaped the dredge. The next year after, all the plantation, new and old, is gone over and suitable 
stock culled out for trade, three-year-old East river oysters beiug in demand for the European market. This 
further thins out the beds, and the following (fourth) year the main croj) of flue, well-shaped, well-fed oysters will 
be taken, and during the succeeding summer, or perhaps after a year, the ground will be thorougldy well cleaned 
UX>, and prepared for a new shelling. 

All these remarks apply to a reasonably hard bottom, which requires no previous preparatiou. In portions of 
Long Island sound, especially oft' New Haven, it has been needful to make a crust or artificial surface njiou the mud 
before laying down the shells. This is done with sand, and has been alluded to in the chapter on New Haveu 

Just what makes the best lodgment for oyster-spawn intended to be used as seed, has been greatly discussed. 
Oyster-shells are very good, certainly, and as they are cheap and almost always at hand in even troublesome 
quantities, they form the most available cultch, and are most generally used. Small gravel, however, has been 
tried on parts of the Connecticut coast with great success, the advantage being that not often more than one or two 
oysters would be attached, and therefore the evil of bunchiness would be avoided. Where scallop shells, as in 
Narraganset bay, or, as in northern New Jersey, mussels and jingles, Anomia, can be procured in sufficient 
quantities, they are undoubtedly better than anything else, because tJjey not only break easily in culling, but are so 
fragile that- the strain of the growth of two or more oysters attached to a single scallop or mussel-valve, will oftcTi 
crack it in pieces, and so iiermit the several members of the bunch to sejiarate and grow into good shape, singly. 
I am not aware that any of the elaborate arrangements made in France and England for catching and preserving 
the spat have ever been imitated here, to any practical extent. The time will come, no doubt, when we shall be 
glad to profit by this foreign example and experience. 

Although the efibrt to propagate oysters by catching drifting spawn wpoin prepared beds has been tried nearly 
everywhere, from Sandy Hook to Providence, it has only, in the minority of cases, perhaps I might say a small 
minority of cases, proved a profitable undertaking to those engaging in it; and many planters have abandoned the 
process, or, at least, calculate but little upon any prepared beds, in estimating the probable income of the prospective 
season. This arises from one of two causes: 1st. The failure of spawn to attach itself to the cultch ; oi-, 2d. In case 
a "set" occurs, a subsequent death or destruction. 

The supposition among oystermen generally has been, that the water everywhere upon the coast was filled, 
more or less, with drifting oyster-spat during tlie spawning-season, whether tliere was any bed of oysters in the 
immediate neighborhood or not; in other words, that there was hardly any limit to the time and distance the spat 
would drift with the tides, winds, and currents. I think that lately this view has been modified by most fishermen, 
and I am certain it greatly needs modification; but, as a consequence of the opinion, it was believed that one place 
was as good as another, so long as there was a good current or tideway there to spread shells for spawn, whether 
there were any living oysters in proximity or not. Cut that this view was fallacious, and that many acres of shells 
have never exhibited a single oyster, simply because there was no spat or soiu'ces of spat in their vicinity, there is no 
reason to doubt. 

Having learned this, planters began to see that they must place with or near their beds of shells, living 
mother-oysters, called "spawuers", which should supply the desired spat. This is done in two ways, either by 
laying a narrow bed of old oysters across the tideway iu the center of the shelled tract, so that the spawn, as it is 


emitted, may be carried up and down over the breadth of shells waiting to accommodate it, or by sprinkling spawners 
all about the ground, at the rate of about 10 bushels to the acre. Under these arrangements the circumstances 
must be rare and exceptional, when a full set v,^]l not be secured upon all shells within, say, 20 rods of the spawners. 
Of course fortunate positions may be found where spawn is produced from wUd oysters in abundauce, or from 
contiguous planted beds, where the distribution of special spawners is unnecessary; yet even may be 
said to be a wise measiire. 

The successful capture of a plenteous "set", however, is not all of the game. This must grow to salable 
maturity before any profits can be gathered, and it so often happens that the most promising beds in September are 
utterly wrecked by January, making a total loss of all the money and labor expended, that more than one planter 
has decided that it does not pay to attempt to raise oysters upon shells, so long as he is able to buy and stock his 
grounds with half-grown seed — a decision which may be based upon sound reasoning in respect to certain localities, 
but which certainly will not apply to all of our northern coast. 

To what causes the well-filled artificial beds of infant oysters owe the destruction which seems often to overtake 
them in a single night, cannot always be told ; we are not sufiicientlj^ acquainted either with the oyster or the 
conditions under which he lives, to detect the fatal influence. It is easily perceived, however, that these propagation- 
beds offer an unusual attraction to aU the active enemies of the oyster, such as winkles, drills or borers, and 
starfishes, since they flud there food not only in a superabundance, but thin shelled and tender, so as to be got at 
in the easiest manner. It has very frequently happened in the East river, that starfishes alone have not only eaten 
up many acres of young oysters in a single season, on shelled ground, but so colonized there as to ruin utterly that 
tract for any further use, so long as they remained. It is certain that the half grown transplanted seed is less 
attractive to oyster-enemies than the propagation-beds ; but when, as frequently occurs, the latter survive misfortune 
and attack, the yield of profits is so great as amply to compensate for the risk. Those who do not catch any or sufficient 
seed for their purposes, upon areas of shells or other cultch, annually procirre young oysters of natural growth, or 
" seed " with which to stock their beds. To this end they send their sloops from Norwalk eastward to the 
Honsatonic beds, as has been described in a previous chapter, out into the sound off Bridgeport and to Shippen 
point, while the more westerly planters get theu' seed in the East river and off the Long Island shore. There 
seems to be little lack of supply, but the scene of good dredging and the amount gathered are continually changing. 
On the whole, however, there is a decrease of supply brought about by the largely increased number of boats now 
fishing every fall. IMore or less of the seed gathered here is sold by those who catch it, to local planters, and some 
goes to beds in Ehode Island and New Tork bay, or the south shore of Long Island. On the contrary, some little 
foreign seed, chiefly from the North river, is brought to Connecticut beds. The deep-water sound seed is the best. 
The seed is not usually culled, but is sold to the iflanter at about 25 cents a bushel, and distributed upon his grounds 
just as it is caught. In a bushel of it, consequently, not more than one-fourth (in a fair run) will consist of living 
oysters, the remainder being dead shells and trash of aU sorts. Of this mixed stuff from 300 to 400 bushels are put 
on an acre lot. If it were culled, even roughly, it would bring from 40 to 50 cents, and one-half the quantity would 
be enough for the same ground, since the danger of planting too thick must be avoided. Frequently this is done. 
Some planters here never disturb their beds until they begin to take them up for market ; but others make a 
practice of shifting their transplanted oysters, when two or two and a half years old, to a new spot. There they lie 
for one year, and are then ready for sale. The cost of shifting is from 10 to 15 cents a bushel ; but the increase, 
both in size and flavor, is thought to compensate for this extra outlay. 

The great drawback to East river oyster-planting of every kind, is the abundance of enemies with which the 
beds are infested. These consist of drum-fish, skates, and, to a small degree, of various other fishes ; of certain sponges 
and invertebrates that do slight damage; and of various boring moUusks, the crushing winkle, and the insidious 
starfish or sea-star. It is the last-named plague that the planter dreads the most, and the directly traceable harm 
it does amounts to many tens of thousands of dollars annually in this district alone. Indeed, it seems to have here 
its headquarters on the American oyster-coast ; but as I shall devote to it a special description in my chapter on the 
Enemies of the Oyster, I will only mention here the fact of its baleful presence, which has utteily ruined many 
a man's whole year's work. 

Destruction of East eiatsr oysters. — Nearly all the East river oysters are sold in the shell in New Tork. 
Those from the Connecticut shore and City island are generally taken to the city in the sloops of the owners, and 
sold to dealers at the foot of Broome sti-eet. This is partially true also of those raised on the Long Island shore; 
but there the New York firms, themselves often co-planters with the countrymen, send boats to buy uj) cargoes 
at the beds at a small. discount from city ijrices. 


The eastern end of Long Island. — The whole extent of bays and inlets contained between the two 

promontories, Montauk and Orient, which terminate Long Island at its eastern end, is subdivided under several 

names, the principal being Gardner's, and Great and Little Peconic bays. Though this region is highly productive 

in respect to the swimming fishes, and to several kinds of edible mollusks, yet oysters are not commonly found 

7 o 


there, nor do tliey flourish when planted. This dearth seems to be due to the uufortnnate abundance of enemies, 
especially starfishes, since there is evidence that anciently oysters were indigenous and plenty. At the extremity 
of the northern cape " Oyster pond" and " Oyster Pond point" still preserve the recollection of what was once good 
tonging ground. Mr. Sanderson Smith, of the United States Fish Commission, once told me that he had found near 
there an extensive bed of dead shells of very large size, perforated throughout by boring-sponges. It is not 
surprising to learn these facts, but they point to a state of things now past, for there is no oyster-catching or 
planting at present in Pecouic bay, which has any commercial importance. 

The collector of the port at Sag Harbor, Mr. W. S. Havens, has for several years kept statistics of the yield 
of the fisheries in this series of bays, from which it appears that in 1870-'SO, 5,000 bushels of oysters were taken; 
their value was $5,000. Of other shellfish (chiefly scallops), $22,400 is given as the value of the catch, which 
seems to me too low. 

At Eiverhead a company of six men was formed in the spring of 1880. They put up $50 each, and stocked 
one acre a short distance below the village with G75 bushels of seed from New Haven; but it did not grow well. 

New Suftblk, Mattituck, and other towns in thalt neighborhood, do a large business in selling scallop-shells to 
Ehode Island and Connecticut fishermen, to be used as cultch on the propagating beds. The price is 2J cents a 
bushel, at which rate the 75,000 bushels of shells sold all alongshore brought in $1,875. 

At Southold oyster-culture has been begun by one man, who has planted 50 acres. 

At Orient 800 bushels of oysters were taken last year, and an insignificant quantity on the Napeague shore, 
inside of Montauk. In the center of Montauk point is a large fresh pond, which it is proposed to turn into an 
oyster-pond, by opening a sluice so as to admit the salt water. At Sag Harbor 500 bushels are reported as the 
local catch, and another 500 bushels at Southami^ton. These three reports add up only 1,800 bushels. I suppose 
the remainder of Mr. Havens' total of 5,000 bushels were picked up at chance times by fishermen in various 
parts of the bays, and locally used. 

Statistical recapitulation foe East bivee (and Peconic bat): 

Number of planters, wholesale-dealers 958 

Value of shore-property $347, 200 

Number of vessels aud sail-boats engaged 1,268 

Value of same |218,800 

Number of men hired by planters or dealers 125 

Annual earnings of same ^67, 500 

Annual sales of — 

Native oysters - bushels.. 669,800 

Value of same |708,925 



Topography of Geeat South bat.— "Every schoolboy knows," as Macaulay used to say with his fine 
contempt for illiteracy, that all along the shore of Long Island, between the outer fence of the rigid and pitiless 
surfrepeUing beach aud the habitable shore, lie a series of shallow lagoons. The largest of these— thirty miles or 
more long and from one to five miles wide — is the Great South bay. This water is the salvation of all southern 
Long Island. If the land ran straight to the sea, and Fire island was not an island but simply a shore, the whole 
great extent would be as uninhabitable as the bleak rear of Cape Cod, all the way from Prospect Park to Moriches. 
But the bay furnishes an abundance of harbors; it abounds in fish profitable to catch; it tempts the ducks to its 
sedgy shore, and so invites an annual migration of money-spending sportsmen; it is paved with the "luscious 
clammes and crabfish" which the old Dutch poet extolled; and it furnishes to the world that marvel of delicacies, 
the oyster. Hence, in place of a pine-barren and a howling, friendless coast, we find a string of populous and 
thriving villages, the winter-havens of thousands of mariners, and the summer resort of city pleasure-seekers. 

This shallow sound communicates with the ocean through Fire island inlet and a few more openings to the 
westward. The eastern part communicates through a narrow pass at Smith's point with East bay, which has no 
communication with the sea, and is almost fresh. The depth of water in the bay does not exceed two fathoms in 
its deepest part, and the rise and faU of the tide are very small, probably not more than a foot at the average. 
The bay receives considerable supplies of fresh water from a number of streams, celebrated for their fine trout. 
The western part of the bay has a sandy bottom, and its water, being in more direct communication with the ocean, 
contains more salt than that of the eastern part, where the bottom is a mixture of black mud with sand. 

Abundance of oysters, past and peesent.— This Great South bay has been called the most populous 
oyster-ground north of the Chesapeake bay, but the natural beds are all confined to the eastern end, where the 


mud-bottom is. They do not occur mucli eastward of Smith's point, nor westward, in general, of a line drawn fiom 
NicoU's point across to Fire island. Occasionally temporary and inconsequential beds "strilie" in the tideways of 
inlets farther east, but nothing with regularity or of im])ortance. This south-shore locality has been celebrated from 
time immemorial, and as early as 1079 had become an object of an extensive industry, as is witnessed by the following 
local ordinance, which I find stated in Watson's Annals of New Yorlc, (p. 284) : 

Oysters: To prevent the destruction of oysters in Soutli bay, by tlio nulimited number of vessels employed in the same, it ia ordered 
that but ten vessels shall be allowed, and that each half-barrel tub shall be paid for at the rate of 2d., according to the town act of 

This right of the town of Brookhaven to dictate regulations in this matter exists to the present day, and arises 
from an ancient colonial grant to the town by patent from the king of England. Eecoguizing this grant, there was 
made an agreement in 17G7 between William Smith, who was at that time the holder and representative of the rights 
and interests of the fishing in Great South bay, whereby the town, in exchange for the right to control the bay, 
contracted to give to him and his heirs forever one half of all net income accruing to the town from the use of the 
bottom of the bay. This, of course, applied almost exclusively to oyster-culture, and the agreement has been kept, 
the revenue of the town from that source, in 1880, aiuounting to $1,032 95, half of which went to the heirs of old 
William Smith. 

Oyster-latvs of Gkeat South bay. — The present laws regulating oyster-matters at the eastern end of the 
bay are as follows : 

Section 10. The owners and lessees of land bounded upon that part of Shinnecock bay lying west of a line drawn duo south from Pino 
Neck point, in the town of South Hampton, in the county of Suffolk [Long Island], may plant oysters or clams in the waters of said bay, 
opiiosite their respective lands, extending from low-water mark into said bay not exceeding four rods in width. 

No planting upon any "beds of natural growth", however, is authorized, or will be protected; nor can any person 
hold oyster-ground unless it is planted and occupied " in good faith ". The locality of such planted beds must be 
designated by stakes and a monument on shore. To plant oysters or clams on such designated ground, without 
permission of the owner, subjects the offender to a forfeit of $12 for each offense, under stated processes of law. 
Heavj' penalties also are inflicted upon persons who remove or deface boundary stakes. [This law, or legal perunt, 
is practically a dead letter, since it has been found useless through the too great freshness of the water, and for 
other reasons, to plant in Shinnecock bay.] 

Sections 100 and 101 of the Revised Statutes of 1875, Title XI, forbid dredging in the Great South bay. Long 
Island, or having in possession instruments for that purpose. 

Sections 102 and 103 enjoin that "no person shall take any oysters, clams, mussels, or shells, or any substance 
growing on the bottom, from any iiublic or private bed, or in any of the waters of the said South bay, except between 
sunrise and sunset on any day". 

Section 104 forbids "catching any oysters, spawn, or seed-oysters" in Great South bay between June 15 and 
September 15. 

The penalties for violation of the above-given regulations are a fine not to exceed $250, imprisonment up to six 
months, and an additional forfeiture of $200 for each offense ; half the jienalty goes to the informer, the remainder 
to the poor-fund. 

Eegulation of oyster-culture in Suffolk county. — In 1879 a law was passed regulating the 
formation of corporations for oyster-culture in Suflblk county, Long Island. Whether this law has ever been 
taken advantage of I am unable to say. It is as follows : 

Section L Five or more persons who have leased or hold oyster-lots iu Suffolk county may organize a company for the promotion of 
oyster-culture upon those lots, and shall become a corporate body, after tiling prescribed statements, in writing, with the county clerk. 

Sec. 2. There shall be not less than three nor more than nine trustees, holding office one year. By-laws shall be made to regulate the 
business of the corporation. Every lot owner shall have one vote, and a majority of votes shall control all questions. 

Sec. 3. The trustees shall have the superiutendenco of the several oyster-lots held by the members, and shall regulate the methods of 
conducting the business l)y by-laws, which shall be publicly entered on a book, and which may be changed at annual meetings by a majority 
vote of the members of the'company. The trustees may emjiloy persons, and make monthly assessments upon the members, for money to 
meet the expenses of the company ; and any member failing to pay such an assessment within 30 days maj' be sued by the corporation. 

Sec. 4. If any member violates a by-law of the company, he forfeits |25, which may be recovered in an action against him by the 

Sec. 5. Whenever, under the laws of this state, an action shall accrue to any member of said company for trespass, or for penalty by 
reason of any act or thing done or committed by anj' person, to or in or about the oysters, upon the lot leaseil, occupied, or held by such 
member, and said member shall assent thereto iu writing, said action may be brought in the corporate name of said company, and all 
recoveries in said actions shall be the property of the company. 

Sec. 6. The oysters upon the several lots of the several members of said company shall be and remain the separate property of the 
said several members, except that any and all shall be liable to levy and sale, under execution, for all judgments recovered against the 

Keoulations of oyster-cultuee by town-laws of Brookhaven. — It will be known, of course, that 
Brookhaven does not consider any of these state laws as applying to her, since she regards the bottom of so much 
of the Great South bay as lies within her boundaries, as being wholly under her own control, and not amenable to 
state jurisdiction. The trustees of the town, therefore, make all the regulations thought necessary, which are not 
many iu number. 


A supervisor is appointed, who has charge of the letting of groiind, in lots of one acre, to each male applicant 
of age, who is a resident of the town. The supervisor inspects the ground to see that it is not " a natural bed ", 
l)laces it upon his map, looks after its proper staking-out, and collects a personal fee for his services. The owners 
of oyster-grounds then pay to the town $1 a year rent per acre, and pay taxes upon their lioating i^ersonal property 
engaged in the business, and upon oysters admitted to be upon their ground. In addition to this, every man, 
cultivator or not, who wishes to wield oyster-tongs on Brookhaven oj'ster- grounds, must pay $1 a year license-fee to 
the town for the privilege. This fee is known by the curious name "toleration", and it arose in this way: When 
the town ordered that every citizen might hold a lot, upon the conditions outlined above, it meant that no person 
should hold more than one. If, however, A got the use of B's name, and so acquired the control of two or more lots, 
uo one objected. The theory was that every man worked his o^m lot; but soon men began catching seed-oysters in 
Bellport bay, around Smith's point, and elsewhere, and selling to the planters, who paid from 25 to 40 cents a bushel. 
In order to derive a revenue from this also, the town therefore ordered a "toleration-fee" of $1, to be paid by every 
man who handled a rake. In the fiscal year 1879-'80 these license-fees amounted to $371 50, while the rental of 
oyster-ground in Brookhaven during the same time was $1,056 ; total receipts of the town, $1,427 50, of which " the 
j)oor" got one-half. Any seeming lack of sufQciency in the amount of the toleration-fees must be charged to the fact, 
that many, no doubt, took advantage of the custom of commuting for the fee, by throwing upon the public ground 
eight or ten bushels of seed, pro bono puhlico. 

Kesteictions of OYSTEE-FisniNG BY TOWN-LAWS OF BROOKHAVEN. — The Stated restrictions placed by the 
town upon oysteriug are: that no dredging shall be done; no oyster-raking at night, nor between June 15 and 
October 1 ; and that no one not a citizen of Brookhaven shall be allowed to rake in her waters, or any person take 
or dispose of any oysters to be transidanted elsewhere. These regulations, being considered by those inside onlj- as 
protective measiu-es due to themselves, and being branded as an illegal and iinkiud selfishness and monopoly by 
those outside, have naturally caused considerable conflict between the oystermen of Brookhaven and their neighbors — 
a large part of the town of I slip, separated from Brookhaven before the full value of the oyster-bottom of the bay was 
appreciated. Brookhaven now claims that the water o])posite Eastern Islip was not granted to Islip at the time of 
the sejiaratiou, and that she retains control of it. To this Eastern Islip objects, and, with an additional reason, 
claims, with Western Islip, Babylon, and the state at large, the free right of Brookhaven waters. Brookhaven offers 
to let Eastern Islip men, in consideration of the old connection, rake with her own citizens, by pajdng a toleration- 
fee of $2, and anybody else for a fee of $3. This is paid by few or none, and Islip brought suit, which has long been 
jiending, intended to break the monopoly. Meanwhile she and all the rest steal as much seed as jjossible — nearly 
all they need, in fact — from Brookhaven waters, the evidence required by the law being so very definite that they 
run small risk, even if caught, of being proved gnilty in court. At the same time Islip and Babylon procured 
legislation authorizing the leasing of the bay-bottom in four-acre i)lots to citizens of those towns, for the purjiose of 
planting oysters thereon, and it was made a misdemeanor for non-residents to tong oysters in any of the waters 
within their jurisdiction. This exclusion was a matter of indifference to everybody acquainted with the fact that 
no seed-beds of value existed in either town to temi^t non-resident tongers. Brookhaven is now endeavoring to get 
aid from the state in securing to itself more protection. At a late town meeting one trustee made the astonishing 
statement, that during the spawning-season three thousand tubs of seed are weeklj' stolen from the bay and 
transplanted in the protected beds in other waters, those of Connecticut included. "As the seed is worth $1 a tub, 
the injury to the oyster-interests in Brookhaven is readily seen. While the oyster planters of other towns are 
growing rich, those of Brookhaven are being made poor, and the time to seek protection was while something 
remained that was worth pocketing." One speaker said he controlled several hundred acres of excellent oyster- 
bottom, but was prevented from utilizing it by the dei>rcdations of non-residents; at which the said nonresidents 
grinned with saturnine glee. What will be the residt of the struggle between exclusion and free-raking, remains 
to be seen. 

Brookhaven bay or '^Blue Point" oysters. — Having thus stated the conditions and regulations under 
which oyster-culture exists in the Great South bay, let us turn to a consideration of the natural supply there, the 
methods of artificial increase, and the results in market-produce and active prosperity. 

The natural, original growth of oysters in this sound, as I have already stated, is confined almost wholly between 
Smith's point and Fire island — practically to the waters east of Blue Point, known as Brookhaven bay. This was 
the home of the famous celebrity, the Blue Point oyster, which was among the earliest to come to New York 
markets. The present oyster of this brand is small and round; but the old "Blue Points", cherished by the Dutch 
burghers and peaked-hatted sons of the Hamptons, who toasted the king long before our Eevolution was thought 
of, was of the large, crooked, heavy-shelled, elongated kind with which one becomes familiar all along the coast 
in examining relics of the natural beds, and which even now are to be found by the thousand in all the mussel- 
lagoons of the gulf of Saint Lawrence. Now and then, a few years ago, one of these aboriginal oysters, of which 
two dozen made a sufiicient armful, was dragged up and excited the curiosity of every one; but the time has gone 
by when any more of these monsters may be expected. 

In 1853 the New Yorlc Herald reported that the value of all the Blue Point oysters, by which name the Great 


Soutli bay oysters were generally meant, did not exceed yearly $200,000. "They are sold for an average of ten 
shillings ($1 25) a hundred from the beds; but, as they are scarce and have a good reputation, they sell at a 
considerable advance upon this price when brought to market. At one pei-iod, when they might be regarded as iu 
their prime, they attained aremaa-kable size; but now their proportions, as well as their numbers, have been greatly 
reduced. There are about two hundred persons engaged in the business, including the proprietors and the hands 
emi)loyed in working the beds." 

Extent of South bay beds in 1873.— Twenty years later (iu 1873) Coiuit Toiu-tales, of Cambridge, made 
an examination of the oyster-producing districts near New York, at the request of the superintendent of the coast 
survey. Iu respect to this great bay south of Long Island, Count Pourtales wrote: 

Tho beds are of various extent, from a few acres to a hundred or more. They form large accumulations of dead shells, on the top of 
•which the spawn attaches itself and produces a succession of crops. » • » Among the beds visited by me, the following deserve 
particular mention : Smith's point has been mentioned as being the eastern limit of the oysters. The water -was found there to be only- 
brackish, and the bottom of clear quartz pebbles, offering attachment to a small variety of oysters, tasteless though tat. They are only 
used for planting.* 

The Great bed (subdivided into North and South beds) off Patchogue appears to be one of the oldest. The tongs bring up large 
quantities of dead oyster-shells of great size, such as have been mentioned before. The living oysters obtained by a fleet of boats at work 
on it appeared to be generally about three years old, and were intended for planting at Rockaway unl il fall. Another celebrated bed is off 
Blue Point, which has a celebrity for the quality of its oysters in the New York and Boston markets. The California bed oil' Sayvillo is one 
of the largest, about 100 acres in extent. It is the westernmost natural bed, and was formerly extremely productive, but has been very 
nuieh reduced by over-li.shing. The oystermen recognize the oysters from that bank l)y the abundant growth of red sponge and serlularias 
on them. The mussel-beds are the nearest to the inlet, and the greater saltuess of their flavor is a consequence of it. The lower .shell is 
more frequently ribbed aud the edge scalloped in the oysters of these beds than those from beds in the eastern part of the bay. To the 
westward aud between these latter beds, the bottom is more sandy, and the scattering oysters found on it are known as "sand" oysters; 
they are easily recognized by their cleau shells, scalloped on the edge and somewhat striped with dark colors when young; the growing 
edge is very thin but hard, while further east it is generally flexible. This would indicate a greater proportion of lime in the water, but 
the reason is not obvious, since the eastern part of the bay contains a much larger quantity of shells in a state of decomposition. 

Signs of exhaustion in the oystee-beds. — It is nearly ten years ago that this inquiry was made by Count 
Pourtales, since even then apiirehensions were felt, lest the supply of native oysters, once thought inexhaustible, 
should speedily find a sudden end. For a hundred years no one had thought anything like protection to the 
beds, or even moderation in raking, necessarj-. Boats had come from Ehode Island and Massachusetts, year 
after year, and had taken away unnumbered loads to be transplanted there, in addition to all the home market 
consumption aud the supply for Eockaway and Staten Island beds. Only 10 to 2.5 cents a bushel was asked for the 
seed by the catchers, and there seemed no bottom to the mine. This state of things attracted more 
and more men into the business of dredging seed and tonging marketable beds. All at once young oysters began 
to be hard to get, aud the increase seemed to be almost at an end. The young men had little knowledge of the great 
armies of infant mollusks which the old men had seen speckling the graA'cl beaches and rocky shoals all over the 
bay a few years previous. It began to be seen that if any oysters were to remain, none must be sold out of the 
bay, and all oystermen must hasten to organize beds and encourage growth. Then came the attempts at help 
from legislation, but the trouble was too deep for that, and the oystermen of the j)resent generation sulfer a 
scarcity that their grandfathers w^ould have thought it impossible should ever occur. 

Extent of oystek-industey at the present day. — iSTevertheless, the beds are not exhausted yet, as is 
evident from the great fleets that spring and fall operate to advantage in the waters between Moriches and Blue 
Point. I suppose that no less than 500 sail-boats spend their time on the bay at these seasons in gathering seed, 
carrying it away, and bujing it for outside planters. To every one of these 500 sail-boats, mainly well-built sloops 
and cat-boats, three men may be counted, so that 1,500 men are probably employed in this industry alone at these 
times. How much seed is prociu-ed each season — the fall of 1879 or spring of 1S80, for instance — it is impossible 
to state; but I should judge it to be not less than 100,000 bushels, or twice that amount for the annual yield; yet 
the amount is not large enough to supply the demands of the South Shore planters, who were compelled to bring 
in last year (1879) about 100,000 bushels of seed procured in the Newark bay, the North river, East river, and New 
Haven, Connecticut. This estimate is too small, if anything. 

Disposition of seed-oystees : Prices. — The poorer seed caught is sold to a great extent in the rough — 
stones, shells, dead stufiF, and all— just as it comes up, siuce on much of it there is clinging " spawn"; that is, young 
oysters too small to be detached. For this 25 cents was the ruling price last year. Much, however, is culled, boys 
going in the boat and picking the tongfuls over as fast as they are poured out upon a board, which is placed across 
the middle of the skiff, from gunwale to gunwale. For this from 40 to GO cents is paid. The buyers are planters 
at Bellport, Patchogue, Blue Point, Say ville, and the towns farther west, and occasionally a man from Ehode Islaud 
or Connecticut, who wants this seed to work up into a particular grade on his home-beds. Count Pourtales 
mentions something I did not leam of in this connection, namely, "a class of men intermediate between the 
fishermen and the marketmen. They use sloops and small schooners, and buy up fiom the oystermen the produce 
of each day's fishing as they come in at night. A basket hoisted to the masthead is the signal indicating a wish to 

* This seed, however, makes the hardiest and most preferred oysters for the European trade, aud is much sought after. 


pnrcliasc." This looks as if he referred to the well-known j^AcAers, of whom I shall speak later; but he shows that, 
partially at least, it is seed they buy, for he continues : " The price paid at the time of my visit was about GO cents 
a bushel for all sizes and qualities mixed. These oysters are carried to Eockaway, Hempstead, and other bays near 
the west end of Long Island sound, near Captain's island, where they acquire rapidly a better appearance and 
flavor. The men who simply carry them there to resell to planters, realize a profit of 15 cents a bushel for freight." 

Scarcity of seed and increase of price. — The insufdcieucy of native seed to supply the cultivated beds, 
complained of this year to a greater extent than ever before, is to be traced mainly to the cause which might long 
ago have been anticipated, and which has before been so ruinous to our oyster-interests — overfishing. So long as 
oysters are permitted to gi'ow for a proper time — say till they are four or five years old — before they are raked up 
for market, so long will they, in favorable places, increase with a rapidity that it would hardly be possible for a 
scarcity to occur. To an extent safe against ordinary demands, the more an oyster-bottom is "tonged" the more 
stock will be found. This is due to the fact that constant raking stirs up the bottom, rinses oft' the shells and gravel 
there, and so pi'ei^ares it to receive the floating spawn. Biit here i^ South bay the oysters gathered for market- 
use are exceedingly small, many of them not larger than a silver quarter. They have not yet spawned, in most 
cases, and hence their removal is like digging plants up before they have left any seeds behiiul ; it is destroying 
the root as well as the brandies of oyster-growth. The seed imported from outside the island is of a diftcrent 
quality, if not inferior — two opinions exist on this point — not producing stock of iirecisely the flavor esteemed most 
highly on the South shore, and to which the original Blue Point and Oak Island bivalves owe their high reputation 
with epicures. Moreover, where formcrlj' seed was to be had for the catching, or bought at 10 to iiO cents a bushel, 
30 to 60 cents must now be paid for it. Such an outlay at the beginning makes an increase of the selling-price 
necessary. The shippers are loth to give the increase, since they do not see wherein the profit will retiu-n. Lately, 
indeed, money has been lost rather than made on oysters from the south side of Long Island, at least upon those 
grown at the eastern end of the bay, whence the stock is almost wholly sent to Eui-ope. The question, therefore, 
as to the best way to restore the natural beds to their ancient productiveness, or whether it is possible to induce the 
formation of new seed-banks, is a Aery important one in this locality, and I endeavored to collect all possible 
information bearing upon it. 

Kemedies for the exhaustion of the seed-supply. — To begin with:' It appears that there has been no 
season when there was a wide spread and abundant catch of siiawn and successful growth of young oysters in 
Brookhaven bay since about 1870. In 1872, it is said to have failed altogether. Every year, liowever, there is more 
or less spawning observed, and it is the belief of the baymen, that every fourth year this exceeds in quantity the 
intermediate three years ; but the misfortune is that the spawn seems, year after year, to go to waste, or, if it 
attaches itself at aU, to be killed by the winter-storms, which stir up and shift the mud of the too shallow bay, or 
by some other accident. 

It is my opinion, however, that nothing like the required number of adult oysters exist, undisturbed , in Brookhaven 
bay to supply naturally sufficient seed to keep pace with the accidents of bad weather and the fall-raking. It is a 
well-known fact, that the oysters upon the transplanted beds do not propagate successfully. Though all the 
surrounding circumstances seem favorable, the shock they have sustained in being transplanted, or some other 
reason, limits their spawning ; and if they do emit eggs, there is usually nothing near by for them to catch upon. 
It is to the wild oysters, then, that the planters must look for the annual renewal of the seed-beds. They are few 
in number, and every circumstance is against them. 

One source of trouble lies, I believe, in the laws intended to be beneficial, which, perhaps, present the only 
difficulty in the way of an entire I'estoration of the old productiveness. I consider that the prohibition of dredging 
is bad policy ; that, on the other hand, dredging should be permitted all the year round, at least half of each week. 
It seems to me, also, that beneficial effects would follow the opening of the beds to free-fishing in summer, dredging 
included, and the closing of them, at least for a few years, from the loth of July until the following spring, say up to 
March 1. The reasons for this have been indicated in ijrevious chapters. The continued raking and dragging 
of the ground in summer, spreads and thins the thicker beds, keeps the bottom clean, and prepares the shells, 
grave], and scraps there for the attachment of the spa^rNTi, by turning over and rinsing them, aud this at the very 
time most necessary, when the oysters are spawning and the eggs are making their brief floating search for a 
foothold. But having thus been provided with resting i)laces in abundance, over a continually widened area, it is 
necessary that the disturbance immediately cease and the young oysters be jiermitted to rest entirely quiet, until 
they have become strong enough to withstand the shock of change to new, private beds. This will not occur until 
they are at least six months old. The present custom of seed-gathering in the fall saves that which is a year old, 
but it ruins an enormous quantity of small seed of the year only three months old, which has not grown to 
sufficient strength to withstand the change. I believe that the only seed which should be removed from its 
birthplace in the fall, is that which catches on gravel beaches between tide marks or elsewhere, where it would 
surely be killed by cold during the ensuing winter ; and that the abundance the succeeding spring would more 
than malie up for the apparent loss of the opportunity at present made use of. If such a course as this were deemed 
im2)racticable, then would it not be well to adopt a system of raking one part of the bottom one year and another 


the next ? Perhaps not more than a single year's interval would be required ; hut I should hope that only a third 
of the bottom might be raked annually, so that each bed would have two years' rest between times. 

The general characteristics of the Great South bay having thus been mentioned, it remains to describe 
particular districts, and offer such statistics as I have been able to collect. 

Bellport akd Moriches. — The most eastern point at which any oyster-operations are conducted on the 
soutli side is Bellport, and there thej' are only begun. East of this, in Moriches bay, seed beds exist — there are 
no oysters in Shinnecock bay — but at Bellport laud is now being staked off and planting has begun. Bellport 
planters will have the advantage of the best and hardiest seed close at their own doors, but are three miles or more 
from the railway. 

Patchogue and vicinity. — The next point is the important town of Patchogue, the center of the Brookhaven 
bay interests. More than any other of the thriving to^\ais on the south shore, it owes its existence to the bay, 
but lias distanced them all in point of size. Every other man you meet is a captain, though the craft he commands 
is rarely better than a sloop. With few exceptions, to be born and bred here means to be a bayman, and a curious 
result follows socially. The women of the village know a vast deal more than the men. As soon as a boy is old 
enough he is sent to school; but by the time he gets acquainted with the manners of the school house, he has 
become big enough to "go cullin'" in an oyster-boat, and tliat is the end of his education. Ilenceforth h(^ sits in 
a skift' on the bay and assorts oysters, until he is old enough to handle a pair of tongs, wlien he "goes tongin'" 
until he dies or has energy and savings enough to become a buyer and shipper. The alternatives to this are to 
go to New York to seek his fortune, or to become a clerk in a village shop. The girls, on the other hand, stay 
in school long after their brothers are taken away. They are pretty — that goes without saying — and healthy, 
because nobody is anything else down here, and are acquainted with fashion through seeing so many stylish 
people in the summer. Then they admire the honest, rugged frame and heart of a bayman, marry him, and 
become his confidential clerk in business. 

The chief business of the bayman at this eastern end, is the catching and cultivation of oysters, and there are 
about 1 ,000 acres of bottom under cultivation in front of the town. This area includes all the coast from Patchogue 
to Bayshore, thus taking ia the settlements and railway stations, Bayport, Youugport, Blue Point, Sayville, and 
Oakdale. A part of these lie in the town of Islip and the rest in Brookhaven, and thus come under slightly different 
regulations, but otherwise they form together a homogeneous district, and the oysters they raise go to market 
under the general brand-name of " Blue Points ". The artificial beds upon which these oysters grow are all near 
shore, and in water rarely more than two fathoms deep, and often less. The bottom varies, but, as a rule, consists 
of mud overlying sand. The preference is in favor of water 6 to 10 feet in depth, which is deep enough to escape 
ordinary gales, and is not too expensive to work. The oysters fatten better there than in shoaler water, one jjlanter 
said. The seed consists of the native growth, eked out by cargoes from IS^ew York bay, the East river, and 
elsewhere. The experiment of planting Virginia oysters as seed has proved a failure. The result is a shell which 
grows closely to resemble the natives, but the moment the oyster is opened the difference and inferiority of the 
meat is apparent, both to the eye and the taste. It has therefore been discouraged. Southern oysters will survi^•e 
the winter in this bay, grow, and emit spawn; but most planters consider that they tend to reduce the quality and 
price of the native stock, and hence have almost ceased to bring any. To raise and sell them as " Vii-ginias" would 
not pay, since this region cannot compete with Staten Island. Whether native or outside seed grows faster is another 
undecided question, but all whom I asked said they preferred to plant all home-seed, if possible, on general 
considerations. The differences in the experiences related to me are no doubt due to the dlffereuces in the particular 
localities whence the seed was brought. It is generally understood that oysters taken fi-om the eastern to the western 
end of the bay grow more rapidly than those not changed. Count Pourtales remarked upon this district as follows : 

These beds produce oysters of different qualities, according to the locality ; the cause of the variation is not known, but depends 
probably on the density of the water, supply of food, etc. The oysters grown on the beds are called bed-oysters, by the fishermen, to 
distinguish them from the broken-bottom oysters. The former have generally a rounded shape; the second, which grow in scattered 
bunches on broken or muddy bottom between the beds, assume an elongated or spoon-shaped form, evidently produced by their tendency 
to sink in the mud by their own weight as they grow. The beds have probably originated in the same way, as the tongs bring up from 
them frequently old and very large spoon-shaped shells of oysters, such as are not now found living there. The broken-bottom oysters 
have a much more rapid growth than the bed-oysters, being two or three times as large as the latter at the same age. The greater supply 
of food will no doubt account for it. At the same time the meat is more watery and held in less estimation until after it has improved by 
planting in other localities. 

The ordinary amount of small seed put on an acre is 500 bushels, chiefly laid down in the spring. In the fall the 
owner goes over them and thins them out, finding a great many which are large enough for market, though no 
bigger than a silver dollar. The rest remain down longer, and meanwhile constant additions of seed are made 

Bayshore. — As you go westward to the extremity of the " Blue Point" district, in the neighborhood of Bayshore, 
you find a feeling of discouragement. The oysters there do not grow as last or be(;ome as finely flavored as those 
to the eastward, and all the seed must be bought or poached stealthily ft-om Brookhaven. Large quantities of ground 
there, which uuiy be prociued in four acre lots at $1 a year rent per acre, arc not taken up, although with the help 


of caj/ital it miglit be made productive, and there are very few out of the many planters in Bayshore who depend 
to any considerable degree upon their oyster-beds for their support, even if you add to this the profits they derive 
from clammiug. 

The use of "stools" to receive otsteb-spat. — Following the lessening product of the seed-beds and 
the increasing appreciation of the oysters of this region, attention was tm-ued some years ago to the possibility of 
saving a portion of the wasted spawn with which the imagination filled the waters of the whole bay, by giving it 
suitable " stools " upon which to rest. 

It has Ijeeu the custom, therefore, for several years in Brookhaven bay, to spread dowu shells, scrap-tin, and 
other cultch, in hopes of catching a quantity of oyster-spawn and so getting ])leuty of seed. This seems to 
have succeeded just in proportion to the contiguity of mother-oysters to the receiving-bed, and the success has 
generally been so imcertain, that no great dependence has been placed upon this som'ce of supply, nor has the 
practice been systematically engaged in, as at New Haven and Norwalk. The experience of Mr. King Benjamin, of 
Saj'ville, for instance, may be given as that of the average planter in this respect. He told me that it was his custom 
to spread his shells at the middle of the spawning season, which here comes early in July, where the tide-currents 
were tolerably swift, and spread them lengthwise of the current. Then across the tide, near the middle of the bed, 
he puts a rank of spawning-oysters from the North river, and has rarely failed for ten years past to get a good set 
to a distance of 15 or 20 rods, but no further. The risk now begins, and it is rare that any considerable quantity 
of the seed so caught survives the bieakiug up of the wintep, when the ice goes out and the northeast gales churn 
up the bottom of the shallow bay. A large proportion of all the oysters, large and small, in Brookhaven, which 
have lain in health all winter, are destroyed every spring. This is one argument used to sustain the propriety 
and profit of fallraking for seed. 

The spreading of shells, without placing among them mother-oysters, is steadily practiced, in, the hope of some 
day catching a fortune, but up to this time this practice has hardly repaid the small expense incurred. On the 
other hand, in spite of ill-luck, those planters who have worked more cautiously, placing spawners among their 
shells instead of trusting to chance, have got plenty of young. There seems no reason, therefore, why the race of 
"Blue Points" should become extinct for loss of seed, and no doubt a more urgent necessity than now exists -will 
introduce into that locality the better methods of sa\ang spawn and safely raising the young, which are surely 
possible. At present it is preferred to purchase seed of natural growth, or of somebody else's raising. 

That the Brookhaveu men consider the putting down of stools worth the effort, is evinced by their petition to 
the town -authorities in May, 1880, for additional ground for this purpose on the southern, and as yet, useless 
shore of the bay. After long discussion, this petition met with the following response, which opens a new field of 
industry to Patchogiie, which there is every reason to suppose will prove of profit. The town decreed as follows : 

Whereas, there is a large portion of the South bay adjoining the South beach which is clean sand-bottom, and could be made 
available for raising seed-oysters liy the spreading upon said ground shells for seed to catch upon, thereby making the; tlats and shoal- 
water ground i)rodnctive to our citizens, and an increased revenue to our town : Therefore, be it 

Mesolved, That this board of trustees lease four acres of such ground to the west of Blue Point and east of aline drawn south from 
Munsell's landing, lo any citizen of the town of Brookhaven, for the purpose of propagating and raising seed-oysters thereon, whether a 
lot for growing oysters in said bay has already been leased to him or her, or not, at the annual rent of §1 for the term of one year, with the 
l)rivilege of renewal annually for nine successive years thereafter, and on the other conditions upon which the board of trustees are now 
granting leases for the purpose of growing oysters. 

Otstee-vessels and otsteemen at east end of Great South bay. — The fleet and the number of 
persons supported by the oyster-industries of the eastern end of the Great South bay are very large, but it was 
impossible for me to get exact statements in respect to either. At Patchogue and neighborhood, however, an 
estimate of 2.50 boats was concluded upon after much inquiry. Eastern Islip will add to this 200 boats, and the 
shore from there westward to Bayshore from 100 to 150 more; say the lesser number. All of these boats are 
sloops or cat-rigged, and are of good size and quality, so that they will range from $600 to $1,G00 in value. The 
minority, however, are of the more expensive pattern, and about $750 would probably fairly cover the average 
value. This would make the 550 sail-boats, built for the oyster-business and used from two-thirds to the whole of 
the time in that business, owned from Bellport to Bayshore, represent a present cash value of about $425,000. 

In addition to this must be counted, say 500 skill's, worth, perhaps, $25,000. It is probable that $50,000 more 
would not more than cover the value of ground, sheds, implements, packing-tools, etc., required, so that the floating 
property of the oyster-planters from Bayshore eastward to Bellport, concerned in that business, nmst be estimated 
as high as half a million of dollars. This, however, is distributed among about COO planters, 400 of whom live in 
Brookhaven and the rest in Islip. These are all, supposably, heads of families, and they employ, or otherwise 
support, perhaps GOO more men and boys to help them in the busy season, half of whom thus support families. It 
may thus be said that in Brookhaven 000 families, and in Islip 300— total 900 — derive their susteuauce directly or 
indirectly from oysters, though most of them, at the same time, are, to a considerable extent, farmers, or fishermen, 
or both. 

Yield of Blue Point oysters in 1879-'80. — The past year (lS7t)-'80) has been a very poor one, both 


in respect to quaDtity and quality, for Blue Point oysters, both the amount sold and the price received being small. 
The crops gathered at the different ports were approximately as follows: 


Patcliogue to Blue Point, about 55,000 

From Oakdale, about ■ 80,000 

From Sayvillo, about 60,000 

From Bayshore, about 20,000 

215, 000 

About half of these were sent by rail, and the other half, or a little more, by water-sloops sailing to New York 
with loads of barrels. This traffic is very important to the railway, and the water competition has served the 
shippers the good turn of keeping freight-charges at a low figure, particularly as there were many advantages to be 
gained in shipping by boat. The average receipts by the railway, per bushel, for oysters transported in 1879, to 
l!few York, from all stations on the Great South bay, was between 8 and 9 cents. 

Exportation of "Bltxe Points" to Europe — The principal market for "Blue Points" is now, as for some 
years past, for the European trade. Their superior fla^-or, round, thin shell, and small size, commended them when 
this shipping business was first begun, and they have retained their suprenuicy over all other brands, until the 
unfortunate season of 1879, when they proved so poor that the " Sounds" beat them in the estimation of the epicures 
abroad, and money was lost by shippers on Long Island. Another unfortunate thing which detracted from their 
success, was an attempt to substitute southern oysters, nurtured for one season in the bay, for native " Blue Points." 
As has been said before, the southern seed takes on in growth so close a semblance to the genuine Bi'ookha veu product 
as to deceive any but the most expert eyes, so far as the shell is concerned; but the meat never looks nor tastes 
so well as that which is imitated. On this account, the leading shippers looked upon the advent of Virginia 
oysters to the bay with some anxiety, fearing that weak-kneed or unscrupulous persons would some day foist the 
imitation upon the London market, under the brand of genuine " Blue Points." 

One day an agent of one of the 'New York houses suspected that such an attempt was being made, but could 
not easily verify it. At the station, however, while the suspected barrels of oysters were being i^laced upon the 
freight cars, he ijrocured an opportuuity, unobserved, to look at their contents, and found them nearly all "Virginias" 
mixed with a few natives. He telegraphed at once to his principal in New York, who forwarded a cipher dispatch 
to his agent in Liverpool. That merchant gave a hint to the customs authorities, and a watch was kept. When the 
adulterated consignment arrived they were seized by officers, their inferior character proved, and the whole stock 
confiscated ; moreover, the agents of these people in Liverpool were arrested, charged with fraud in selling food 
under a false label, which is an offense visited with heavy penalties under the English law, and they only escaped 
through the intercession of American oyster-dealers there, who explained that the shippers probably thought 
southern oysters laid down in Blue Point waters might properly pass as "Blue Points." Such a construction is 
plausible, but the inferior nature of the stock was well-known nevertheless, and would have tended to injure the 
reputation of these fine oysters irretrievably. 

Mr. George H. Shaffer, of New York, one of the pioneers in shipping to Europe, preferred "Blue Points" at 
first, and has continued ever since to be a very large buyer of them. To the kindness of his agent at Patchogue 
Mr. More, I am greatly indebted for assistance in my investigations. Mr. IMore and all his brother-agents are 
known as "packers". They are very busy men, traveling along the shore every day, in all sorts of weather, and 
striving against one another in the purchasing-boats for friendly advantages. Each packer has a sloop and crew with 
which he cruises on the fishing-grounds. That he has come to their vicinity, and is ready to purchase, is known to 
the oystermen by the signal of a basket hoisted at his masthead. They row up to him, measure out the "tubs", 
each of which holds two bushels, and receive their cash-payment on the spot. Several thousand dollars a day are 
thus disbiu'sed iu this region all winter through. When this market-boat is full she makes for the shore and lands 
her cargo in her owner's shanty, which, firmly secured against the wind and banked up with sea-weed, occupies a 
place just out of reach of the tide on the sandy beach. Here the oysters are "culled": that is, assorted into three 
sizes. The largest ones, of small amount, are reserved for the home trade, while the two small sizes are snugly 
packed in barrels, well shaken down, to be sent abroad. The barrels used are eld flour-barrels, supplies of which 
are sent down from New York, and they will hold a scant three bushels; but in the course of packiug, discarding 
and waste occur, until it is estimated that every barrel of Long Island oysters sent to Europe represents fully four 
bushels taken from the beds. I presume the same will hold true at Perth Amboy and elsewhere. The residue of 
the packing, big and little, the packer throws overboard upon a plot of ground reserved for the purpose, near his 
house, whence he occasionally takes up such as are suitable for market, so that really there is little waste. 

Advance-contracts for oyster-crops. — The system of contracting for a planter's crop a season ahead, 
has been followed here by the packers to considerable advantage. The planter judges what he will be able to rake 
or procure from his neighbors duriug the winter, and contracts to deliver so many barrels to the shipper at such a 
price. Last season was disadvantageous for the contractors, owing to scarcity of stock, but as a rule they have done 
fairly well. The packers also sometimes advance capital to a man with which to start an oyster-bed, on condition 


that he will sell only to them and share the profits equally. This sort of bargain is encouraged by the shippers, 
and a diligent man need never fear to undertake such an obligation, since it is bound to be mutuallj' profitable, If 
properly conducted ; yet many cases have occurred where the offer has been refused, for no api^arent reason better 
than lazy shiftlessness. Indeed, it is an unfortunate characteristic of too many of these seemingly shrewd and 
certainly hardy and adventurous bay men, that they are contented with the small supplies of the happy moment, 
unwarned by past scarcity to provide against future suflering, and are as reckless of advantages which might be 
improved, as they are of saving the money in hand. To this indiftei'ence may be traced their slowness to experiment 
toward the improvement of their oyster-grounds, or the preservation of more of the vast abundance of spat which, 
they all believe, whether it is the fact or not, is drifting just under the steely-blue surface of their beautiful 
midsummer bay. 

Prices of Blue Point oysters. — The prices of Blue Point oysters have never been lower than at present; 
even a hundred years ago more money was paid for them than now, which shows the general public advantage of 
cultivation. During the season of 1870-80, the prices paid the producers by the packers ranged from $1 50 a 
bushel for small lots of "best selected", to 60 cents for poor stuff. Much was sold at a dollar, but a fairer 
average would be 00 cents. Twenty years ago, according to Count Ponrtales' report, "$2 to $3 a bushel" was 
the selling price. For those destined to form foreign shipments, from $.'> 50 to B-i a barrel was paid, the highest 
prices ruUng near Patchogue, and the lowest westward. This was from 20 to 30 per cent, above the prices paid at 
the same time for the "Sounds", although the latter were better received and worth more in the English market 
than those costing moi-e here. The profits iu "Blue Points" and "East Rivers", therefore, wei'e small, while those 
in "Sounds" were fair, if not large. 

Aggregate valine of Blite Point oyster-crops. — Multiplying the 215,000 bushels sold between Bellport 
and Bayshore ("Blue Points") by. 00 cents, the average price, gives §193,500 as the approximate amount of money 
l^ut into the pockets of the oystermen along a strip of about 20 miles of shore. Dividing this among 900 families 
(see page 101) gives an average of about $215 as the season's income for each. This takes no account of the two 
or three hundred single men, who earned $2 a day at oysteiing during a portion of the season, but a considerable 
part of whose earnings reverted to their employers or neighbors, in payment for board and supplies. 

Babylon : " Oak Island " oysters. — At Babylon the business of oyster-cultivation is comparatively a modern 
institution, though IMessrs. UdaU and Oakley, with some others, have been at it for ten years or more. 

No natural oyster-beds are to be found in this town, or nearer than Brookhaven bay ; uor have they ever 
existed, except that in the inlets and tideways through the beaches and marshy islands opposite the village of 
Babylon, as in the neighborhood of Fire island, occasional scattering patches of young sometimes "catch". Unless 
taken up the same fall, however, they rarely survive, and no dependence is placed upon this chance supply. Now 
and then a few at Oak Island will manage to live and grow. They develop a remarkably fine flaX'or and bring 
extraordinary prices in the market. 

There are said to be about 1,000 acres of bottom belonging to the town suitable for oyster-culture, but only 
about 200 acres are at present improved. These are all alongshore and almost wholly around Oak Island, on the 
southern shore of the bay, since the central part of this broad, shallow lagoon grows full of eel-grass in midsummer, 
the bottom everywhere being muddy. The water is nowhere more than 6 or 7 feet deep at high-tide, and the larger 
part of the grounds are laid bare at low water. On this account there is great risk iu trying to keep any oysters 
upon the beds through the winter, the ice often settling upon the beds at low tide, freezing fast to mud and oysters, 
and carrying both away when it drifts ofif upon the rising tide. The winter of lS78-'79 was destructive of nearly all 
the beds in this way. Such complete devastation is rare, however, and the winter of 1879-'S0 was so mild that no 
harm was done. Men vho cross to the beaches, shooting or wrecking in winter, often find a feast in the oysters 
which are fi'ozen into the cakes of ice piled up on the shore, and these are the best, too, for the shallowest water 
Ijroduces the finest quality. 

There are at Oak Island 30 planters, each of whom cultivates 4 acres under the special state law enacted for 
Babylon and Islip. This law, which, in 1878, was made to take the place of previous statutes, comprises several 
sections, and reads substantially as follows : 

Section 1. Any person of full age, who has been an inhabitant of Islip or Babylon, Suffolk county, for one year, upon complying 
■with the ensuing conditions, may ' ' locate a lot not exceeding four acres iu extent under the public waters of the Great South bay, iu cither 
of said towns, where the taking of clams cannot be profitably followed as a business", and shall have exclusive ownership. 

Sec. 2. "For the purpose of ascertaining aTid determining what » • * portions of said bay may be taken for the pui-pose of 
planting oysters as aforesaid, a board of commissioners, consisting of two from the town of Islip and one from the town of Babylon, whose 
official titles shall be 'oyster-commissioners', shall be appointed each by the board of town-auditors * • * of his or their said town, 
respectively". They hold office one year, their appointment to be certified to by the auditors and filed with the town clerk. 

Secs. 3, 4, 5. Each oyster-commissioner must take an oath of office and furnish a bond of $aOO or more for the faithful perfonnanco of 
his duties; in case of refusal to serve, or vacancy, the auditors may appoint a substitute. 

Sec. 6. It shall be the duty of said commissioners » * * to attend and examine the lot applied for, and ascertain and determine 
whether the taking of clams can or cannot bo profitably followed as a business thereon ; and if they shall determine that it cannot, then, 
and not otherwise, they shall locate the lot for him, which shall be clearly marked and defined. The coraniissioners must also secure maps 
and surveys of .all ground allotted, and on all questions of boundary the decisions of the commissioners shall bo final. On payment by 


any applicant of the expense of locating bis lot, whicli shall he determined hy said commissioners, but shall in no case exceed the sum of 
JlO and the additional sum of §1 per acre as yearly rent, they, or a majority of them, shall give to such applicant a certiticate * « » 
which certiliuate shall entitle the person named therein to the possession of saiil lot, for the purposes of this act, so long as he shall keep the 
said lot clearly defined in the manner so directed by said commissioners; but- if such person shall neglect to plant his lot with at least 100 
bushels of oysters and shells during the period of one year from the date of his certiticate, or shall neglect to pay said yearly rent on or 
before the lirst day of Aiiril in each and every year, his rights to the possession of said lot may be terminated at the option of a majority 
of said commissioners. Certificates of this fjict (Tis well as all other documents) must be made in duplicate and filed with the town clerk. 

Sec. 7. Each of said commissioners shall be allowed the siuu of $5 per day for his services actually rendered under this act,- the 
same to be paid only out of the fund received for locating lots * * * and shall not receive any additional fees or compensation from 
any person or iiersons whomsoever; and each of said commissioners shall, at the usual annual auditors' meeting of said towns, account for 
and pay over all moneys in his possession » » * . 

Sec. 8. It shall not be lawful for any person to retain possession of any such l<jt after he shall cease to bo a resident of lither of said 
towns of Islip or Babylon, luit he may sell and assign his interest in any sueh lot to any inhabitant of either of said towns for one year; 
but no person shall acquire possession of more than one lot by purchase or otherwise. 

Skc. 9. A penalty of fme not exceeding $1U0, or imprisonment not over 60 days, or both, is provided for taking or disturbing of oysters 
on such lots by unauthorized persons. 

Of the thii-ty planters alluded to above, twenty-two have formed themselves into a protective association, and 
hire a watchman at $40 a niontli ; bat, in spite of thi.s, cojnplaiuts of theft are freqnent. 

The old way of planting at Oalc Island was to bny small seed and plant it in the spring. The following- autiiiiin 
the bed was thinned out, and more than half of it taken up and Sold, chiefly to planters from Khode Island, to be 
laid down again. What remained grew to better advantage and was ready for market the following spring, if the 
ice did not haul it off before then. About 1870 seed could be procured in Brookhaveu bay in abundance, simi>ly 
by the ti'ouble of catching, or could be bought for 10 to 20 cents a tub. About 1875 Mr. Edward Udall told me 
young oysters were so iilenty off Patchogiie and Smith's point, that a man could work profitably at 5 cents a tub. 
In 1877 he bought seed largely for 10 cents a tub, but in 1880 the same was worth 25 cents at Patchogue, and 40 
cents when delivered at Babylon. 

The growth of oysters transplanted to Oak Island waters is extremely rapid. They have been known frequently 
to double their size in a single season, and are often sent to market at the age of fifteen months ; that is, the second 
fall after their birth. This rapidity of growth is attributed to the freshness of the water, but undoubtedly is due 
to the excess of confervoid and other food in the water. I know no place where it is more abundant ; and it is 
quite possible that tlie fishermen are right when they attribute the circumstance that oyster-spawn never catches 
west of Nicoll's point, except around the mussel-beds in the iidet, to the great prevalence of slime in the water ; 
for this "sUme" is the vegetable and hydroid growth that fiu'nishes so much nourishment to the adult oysters, and 
everywhere covers the bottom with a sUppery gi'owth and deijosition. 

The planting of southern oysters was tried here, but tlid not yield a profit, since a large proportion of the 
oysters died. They grew well enough, but few lived, the supposition of the oystermen being that the water is too 

Experiments have been made to a limited extent in catching spawn upon artificial beds of shells. When it 
has always been possible to biiy Brookhaven seed at 10 to 20 cents, and secure in one or one and a half years' 
gi'owth enough upon it to pay the planter from 75 cents to $1 a bushel, no other method was considered necessary. 
Now, however, there threatens to be such a scarcity of seed that shell-beds will i^robably be laid down extensively, 
and I see no reason why good returns shoidd not follow. 

The enemies to be contended with are the ice, as before mentioned ; rare easterly gales of siifiicient power to 
distiu'b the beds ; the borers, wliich are on the increase, and two years ago nearly extinguished the beds oi^iiosite 
Saj^ville ; and the common crabs. In respect to the crabs, I had not heard before that they were injiu-ious, but 
was assured that immense damage by them annually hapi)ens to the young oysters on planted beds ; one man losing 
500 bushels in one week. This matter is more particularly discussed under "Oyster Enemies". 

The Oak Island planters put down in 1880 between 15,000 and 20,000 bushels of seed, and their next crop will 
probably be a large one. This season, however, though their oysters were of superior quality, the amount was so 
small that not more than 2,000 bushels were sent to market. These chiefly went into the export trade, and were 
sold to SayviUe shippers at $1 25 to $1 50 a bushel, which was a large advance upon the previous year's prices. 
There is a feeling of discoiu-agement at this locality. 

Amittville, South Oystee bay, Fkeepokt, and Baldwin. — Going west from Babylon, the small 
])ro(lucing points of Amityville and South Oyster bay are passed, and then you reach Freeport, where there is an 
old and extensive business in oyster-cidture. 

The beds opposite Amityville, the most westerly point on the Great South bay, are a new property, and as yet 
yield small cro^is. The situation seems favorable, however. There are ten or a dozen planters (and as many sail- 
boats), the principal of whom are the Messrs. Ketcham. They obtain most of their seed at present from the East 
river, and have now planted about 5,000 bushels. In addition to this, about 1,.500 bushels of Virginia oysters were 
laid down this year. The crop reported sold last Avinter amounts to 2,000 bushels. "No drawbacks" is the 
encouraging re])ort. 

At South Oyster bay, four miles westward, a planting interest has grown up only of late. The name of the piece 


of water auil the village is deriTcd from its being the southern part of the town of Oyster Bay, which owes its 
name to the ancient i>ro(lnctiveness of its harbor, on the north shore, in our favorite moUusks. There are 22 
planters here, IS of whom are joined in an association for mutnal protection. They rent ground under the laws of 
South Oyster bay, although many of the members are residents of Hempstead. They can each have as many 
acres as are wanted, for simply the trouble of staking out and recording. They have piu'sued a somewhat difi'erent 
course from theii" neighbors, buying this year (the spring of 1880) two-year-old seed at New Haven, which cost 
them GO cents, i>ut down. This they i^ropose to take up and sell the succeeding fall, and expect by that time it will 
have doubled its size, so favorable are these grounds regarded for oyster-growth. These planter's intend in future, 
nevertheless, to buy small seed, that is, when they can procure it at less cost and trouble than was possible last 
spring. I should think this locality ought to become a profitable oyster-depot. 

Five miles westward of South Oyster bay lies the considerable hamlet of Freeport, where oyster-planting has 
long been followed in the .shallow bay of the same name opposite the town, about 40 acres of bottom being in 
use. Aboxit 35 planters are engaged here, all of whom live at Freeport, and make a pretty prosperous village of 
it. Besides these 35 owners, probably 25 families get their li%'iug out of the trade, so that the industry is very 
considerable here. The method of cultivation is similar to that employed eastward, except that considerable seed 
is got at Staten Island and in the East river, but no southern oysters are planted. The crop last season amounted 
to about 30,000 bushels. It was of high quality, and brought an average piice of about $1 35 in New York. 
Nevertheless the Freeport men complain of a poor business and dim prospects. 

At Baldwin's, two miles west of Freeport, there are 18 planters, occupying an acre each of the bottom of 
Hempstead bay, an inlet separated from South Oyster bay by islands, and alx)ut as many more who find steady 
employment. These planters get seed mainly from the westward, and in 1879-'80 sold about 11,000 bushels at 81 50. 
They report theii- beds in "very fine condition" and their "prospects very bright". 

At Christian Hook is a small lousiness, also in the waters of Hempstead bay, in respect to which I was prevented 
by accident from getting and saving many particulars. I judge, however, that the business there is nuich the 
same as at Baldwiii's, and, therefore, credit its productiveness at about the same rate — 11,000 bushels annually. 


Topography. — At the western end of the south shore of Long Island is a series of interlacing channels, 
through a great marshy lagoon, protected outwardly by Longbeach from the rage of the Atlantic, and separated 
from Hempstead bay, east of them, by large islands. This confusrag network of shallow, tidal creeks, ramifying 
in all directions through an immense expanse of sedge, lies on the eastern side of the township of Eockaway. 
West of the town spread tlie more open waters of Jamaica bay. In both these waters oysters are grown in great 
quantities ; and as every village, beach, inlet, and channel in the whole region has the name Eockaway attached 
to it in some shape, it is not surprising that these oysters should take the universal name, too, in the New York 
markets, whither they all tend. The annexed map wiU show what an amphibious kind of region this is, and its 
relation to other localities. 

History of planting: Laws. — All of the planters live at the tillage of East Eockaway, and \vithin a mile 
of it on the western side, and are a different class of men, socially inferior to the oystermen of the Great South 
bay. Though a large number are engaged, no one among them is an extensive dealer, three or four thousand 
bushels being the largest amount raised by any one man, while the majority of the planters produce less than 500 
bushels a year. 

The first planting was done here about thirty- five years ago, by Captain Samuel Pearsall and Mr. James 
Murray, as tradition relates. There were never any natural beds here, and they procured their seed at Patchogue, 
or wherever they could get it most easUy. Nor were they particular as to ground occupied. Later, however, when 
the business became one of importance, special laws were enacted by the state of New York, at the instance of the 
towns of Hempstead and Jamaica, to apply to these waters. These legal regulations, which illustrate the selfishness 
of all oyster-laws, govern not only the Eockaway oystermen, but also those all along the shore from South Oyster 
bay to Fort Hamilton. They are as follows : 

Section. 78. Exempts Jamaica aud Hempstead bays from the "public waters" of Queen's county. 

Secs. 79 to 87 .ire iirelevaut. 

Sec. 88. Persons for one year inhabitants of Jamaica and Hempstead, Queen's rouuty, may plant oysters in the waters of those 
towns, as heretofore provided ; but no person not a resident shall be allowed such privilege. 

Sec. 89. Inhabitants of Jamaica aud Hempstead can use three acres, but must marlc, define, and make use of, as stated in section 79. 

Sec. 90. "Before any person shall occupy any lands under the public waters aforesaid, for the purpose of planting oysters, * *. » 
he shall prove to the satisfaction of the board of auditors of town accounts * * * that the land selected is not a planted bed of 
oysters, or, if planted, is not planted by auy person other than the applicant, and shall also prove, by at least five reputable residents and 
freeholders of said towns [Jamaica or Hempstead], that he is, and has been for one year preceding, an inhabitant of the town. All 
the aforesaid proof shall be taken in writing, and signed and sworn to. Such board of auditors, or a majority of them, shall thereupon 
give to such person a certificate under their bands, " embodying the facts stated above, which shall be filed with the town clerk. 


Sec. 91. Persons obtaining and using oyster-gronnd in Jamaica or Hempstead shall pay to the supervisor of the town an annual 
rent of i|5 an acre. This money shall go to pay current annual expenses of the town. Any oystering or clamming on ground so set apart, 
without authority of the owner, is forbidden. 

Sec. 92. Penalty for taking oysters, or distiu'hing beds in Jamaica or Hempstead, |100, to be recovered by the owner. 

Sec. 93. Detines process of arrest and recovery. 

Sec. 94. Forfeiture ensues when the owner of ground in Jamaica or Hempstead waters ceases to use the ground for one year, or at the 
end of a year after he ceases to l>o a resident. 

Sec. 95. Persons given until January 1, 1872, to remove their oysters from the waters of Jamaica or Hempstead, or to acqiuro new 

Sec. 96. Forbids dredging in the waters belonging to Jamaica or Hempstead, under penalties of |100 fine, or 60 days imiirisonment, or 

Sec. 97. Repeals the act of April 8, 1865, relating to this subject. 

Under these closely protective laws the whole towu, nearly, has turned itself into oyster-growers, and the 
coming generation are taking the beds their fathers leave. They pay into the town treasury of Hempstead about 
$900 a year, and into that of Jamaica about $4:00, which, at $5 an acre rent annually, sliows that few of tlio 
planters occupy the three acres which they are permitted to. This is not for lack of room, however ; plenty of 
good gi'ound remains. 

Oystermen's wages. — The total number of planters that one may count up in Rockaway varies from time to 
time, but there are not less than 150 constantly engaged, and devoting their whole time to their beds, except in 
midsuiumer. Besides these planters, properly speaking, there are as many more men who support their families by 
l)ickiug up the oysters that have drifted on to public ground from the planted beds, and selling them for mai ket or 
for seed ; who catch crabs, dig clams, and mend boats and tools, when not directly employed in assisting the 
planters make their beds or harvest their crops. It is particularly at the harvest-time that this help is employed, 
and the laborers receive from 20 to 25 cents a bushel for getting up and bringing in the oysters and culling them 
for market. It may safely be said, therefore, that 250 families, and many single men, in this village alone, obtain 
their support from the local oyster-industry. 

Methods of culture. — Eockaway meu get their seed from Brookhaven and Newark bay, but jirefer East 
river seed to any other, and use the largest quantity of it. It is brought to them in sloops. Rockawny itself owns 
few large sailboats; its channels are too shallow and devious to admit of easy navigation, but every man has a 
skiff, and all the planters, flat planting-boats. Virginia oysters have been tried, but have never done well. Kow 
none are planted. They say the water is too salt for them. The growth of Eockaway oysters is extremely rapid. 
The mud in the bottom of these marshy channels, which is only sufEicieut to hold the oysters from being smothered, 
seems to be full of nourishment, and the oysters are always large and fat. Some few men deal only in "box" size ; 
but the majority of the planters sell, nowadays, much smaller oysters than formerly they were wont to, so that the 
average shipments now will run about 275 to the bushel. Lately, also, Eockaway has been able to contribute 
considerably to the Eui'opean trade, selling what they term "French" stock, measuring from 1,500 to 1,700 to the 
barrel, and receiving $1 a hundred for it. I understand that these oysters have given very good satisfaction abroad. 

Markets and prices of Eockaway oy^sters. — When Eockaway oysters first began to get a name in the 
city markets, they were sent there by the packet-sloops that used to run for fast freight and passenger trafdc from 
the south shore to the metropolis, in rivalry with the lumbering stage-coaches on the shore, and brought about 75 
cents a basket. When the war of the Eebellion cut oft' the southern supply, northern oystermen profited, and 
" Eockaway s" were so good and regular, that at the close of the war they Avere worth $1 for ordinary stock at the 
boats, after which they were carted to the city in peddlers' wagons. This rate dwindled, however, very rapidly; 
yet Eockaway oysters have always held a good place, and last season were sold readily at $1 25 for small and $2 
for the larger sort. The quality was unusually poor this season. The total quantity raised annually by this community, 
I estimate, after much studj^, at 100,000 bushels, judging that 700 bushels is the largest average i>ermissible, and 
counting 150 planters. 

Northwest Point. — On the eastern shore of Jamaica bay is a little oyster-settlement calling itself Northwest 
Point, which disjioses of its oysters as "Eockaways". The beds here are in a swift tidal channel, where the water is 
shallow, and many beds are left bare at low tide. Here are from 40 to 45 families, chiefly supported by the business. 
Four or five of these are planters, raising from three to five thousand bushels annually; but the majority are small 
planters, who get from $150 to $400 a year out of their beds. They own here about 20 oyster-sloops, which do also 
a good deal of coasting, and in summer enter into the pleasure-excursion business at the beach hotels. The total 
crop of the locality, therefore, does not exceed ten or fifteen thousand bushels. Last year these were of poor quality, 
and were sold on the shore at $1 25 a bushel. As a rule, most of the oysters are taken by water to the foot of West 
Tenth street, New York, and there disposed of, generally to good advantage. Mr. Henry Wanser, to whom I am 
chiefly indebted for information, pi'ophesied that the crop of 1S80-'81 would be a good one in quality, because the 
moUusks had spawned early, and therefore had time left them to get strong and fat before the cold autumn weather 
began. He thought oysters must be in good shape by August 20, or they would not be good at all. 

A few other planters are scattered singly about the shores, but they are of no importance, and cater -chiefly to 
the hotels and local trade in summer. 


Geavesend. — On the western shore of Jamaica bay is a small interest centering at Gravesend, in procuring 
an account of which I was greatly assisted by Mr. E. L. Van Kluk, postmaster of that village. 

There are no natural oyster-beds in this region, except that a few bushels are caught every fall in Garrettsou's 
creek, between Gravesend and Flatlands. Between Gravesend on the west and the western shore of Jamaica 
bay on the east, there are 22 or 23 planters, all of whom get their seed from Newark bay. This business and 
clamming, together, support about 25 families. Last season the crop amounted to between 15,000 and 20,000 bushels, 
sold in New York at an average price of $1 25. 

Statistical kecapitulation fok South Shoee of Long Island: 

Number of planters and shippers 800 

Extent of ground cultivated acres.. 2,000 

Value of shore-property, about ^25, 000 

Number of vessels 170 

Value of same $136,000 

Value of small craft (800 boats) $100, 000 

Number of men hired by planters or dealers 400 

Annual earnings of same $150,000 

Annual sales of — 

I. Native oysters bushels.. 400,000 

Value of same $400,000 

Total number of families supported 1,200 



Allusions to oysters in eaely Colonial liteeatuee. — Among the riches of a new country enumerated 
to the Old World by discovei-ers, the products of the sea always have held a prominent place. They were not 
forgotten in the case of the shores of the island of Manhattan, the splendid river to which Iludson left his name, 
and the great bay where it finds entrance to the sea, and the bright exi)anse of which is the scene of the story of 
the present chapter. 

The fishes of these waters attracted the attention of the earliest voyagers in a marked degree, and the moUusks — 
a part of them in pojjular estimation — were not neglected. 

Whether the wealth of oysters would have been apprehended so speedily had it been necessary to "discover" 
the beds, is doubtful, though the fact that they then grew abundantly all over the edges of New York bay, and the 
entering streams — Shrewsbury, Earitan, Passaic, Hackensack, Hudson, and East rivers — must have been apparent 
to the most careless observer; but the explorers and colonists were saved any trouble in the matter, for the Indiana 
were in the habit of gathering clams and oysters at all practicable seasons, and depended upon them largely for 
their food. In a poem by an early Dutch settler and poet, this very thing is celebrated, with seemingly strict 
attention to truthful details : 

Crabs, lobsters, mussels, oysters, too, there be, 
So large that one does overbalance three 
Of those of Europe ; and in quantity, 
No one can reckon. 

Then, as now, it appears that all the hard work of obtaining the delicacies fell upon the women. A quaint 
old book, written by William Wood, and published in London in 1634, entitled Wevv Englands Frosjyects, etc.7 
contains a poem upon the kinds of shellfish, in which the following elegant verse occurs : 

The luscious lobster, with the crab-fish raw, 

The brinish oyster, mussel, perriwigge, 
And tortoise sought by the Indian Squaw, 

Which to the flatts dance many a winter's jigge, 
To dive for cockles and to dig for clams. 
Whereby her lazy husband's guts she cramms. 

How greatly this molluscan abundance was valued by the first colonists, is plainly shown by frequent allusions 
in the early descriptions of the country. In 1C21 " very large oif ters" were too common at Nieuw Amsterdam to find 
a market, everybody being able to supply themselves without charge. A few years later (1071) Arnoldus Montanus 
speaks of "oysters, some a foot long, containing pearls, but few of a brown color", as one of the common 
advantages of the young settlement. Sir George Carteret, as one of the inducements in advertising the region 
about the mouth of the Earitan, where he wished to establish colonies, tells intending emigrants that "the bay [i. e., 
of New York] and Hudson's river are pleutifidly stored with sturgeon, great bass, and other scale-fish, eels, and 
shellfish, as oysters, etc., in great plenty, and easy to take". This was in 1081. Three or four years later letters 


were written Lome to Euglaiid from what is now Perth Amboy, which are preserved in Smith's History of New 
Jersey, which bear out the truth of Carteret's assertions handsomely, as proved by these extracts : 

And at Amboy point and feveral otherl)laces there is abundance of brave oyfters. 

O.vfters, I think, -wonkl ferve all England. 

We have one thing more particular to ns, which the others want alfo, which is vaft oyfter-banks, which is the conftant fref h victuals, 
during the winter, to Englifh, as well as Indians; of thefe there are many all along our coafts, Ixom the fea as high as against New York, 
whence they come to fetch them. 

Oyfter f hells upon the point, to make lime withal, which will wonderfully accomodate us in building good houfes [of stone] cheap, 
wann for winter, and cool for summer. 

We have ftore of clams, efteemed much better than oyfters ; on feftivals the Indians feaft with them ; there are fhallops [scallops], 
but in no great plenty. 

Oysters in the Hudson eiver and in the "Kills". — Just how far up the Hudson river this "store" of 
"brave oysters" extended is hard to determine. In his manuscriiit notes, fiu-nished me with a liberality which 
his known regard for science and his native generosity would lead those who know him to expect, the Eev. Samuel 
Lock wood says, that five or six miles above Teller's point, near Sing Sing, is the uppermost spot "where they ever 
flourished". Captain Metzgar mentioned Eockland lake as the northern limit. The distance from here to Sandy 
Hook is no less than 50 miles, and all the way it was an almost continuous oyster-bottom. Bedloe's island, in the 
harbor, was first known as Big Oyster island, and some rocks and tide-bars south of it as Little Oyster island, the 
latter still keeping its name. 

In the neighborhood of Staten Island the circumstances were especially favorable, and there were numerous beds. 
Staten Island lies in a mainly east and west direction, filling the southwestern corner of the bay; the northern shore 
is I'ocky and unfit for oyster-growth for a considerable distance, but the southern and western sides are eminently 
favorable. Between the island on the west and the contiguous shore of M^ew Jersey, at Bergen and Elizabeth, the 
strait is narrow and was long ago called by the Dutch Kil von Kol, or the Kol, which has been corrupted into 
modern Kill von Knll, or shortly, the Kills. Everywhere in these swift tide-ways oysters grew abundantly. South 
of the island there is a broad expanse of shallow water separating the island from the Jersey shore of Monmouth 
county, into which the Earitan pours a heavy flood of fresh water. To the Staten Islanders and New Yorkers, this 
part of the bay is known as Staten Island sound, and the oysters grown in it receive the market name of "Sounds". 
Jerseymen more often speak of it as Earitan bay, and sell the oysters they raise on their shore as "Amboys" and 
"Keyports", the former town being the ancient village at the mouth of the Earitan river, and the latter, a modern 
town, several miles eastward. To the eastMard of Keyport again, near the base of Sandy Hook, Shrewsbury river 
comes in, and here was another oyster-center, famous at one time, but now declined. The only other locality worthy 
of special mention is Prince's bay, on the southea^itern shore of Staten Island. 

Fisheries and legislation in the eighteenth century. — With reference to oyster-matters history is 
mute during the close of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth century, except that chance allusions 
here and there show that large numbers of persons — nearly everybody in fact — took advantage of this natural 
storehouse of food to supjilement their luxuries in summer, and victual their cellars for winter. It is also evident 
that the fame of Carteret's "great plenty and easy to take", had spread abroad, and so many aliens sailed into the 
placid bay to rake upon the "vast banks", that at last the colonists became alarmed for the continuance of their 
precious supply. Thus it arose that as early as 1715 was i^assed the fli'st colonial law in relation to oysters, 
prohibiting — 

That from and after the Publication of this Act, it f hall not be Lawful for any Perfon or Perfons whatfoever (Native Free Indians 
only excepted) from and after the tirft day of May, until the firft day of Septemher, Annually, to gather, Rake, take up, or bring to the 
Market, any Oyfters whatsoever, under the penalty of Twenty Shillings for every Ofl'ence, to be recovered before any of His Majefty's 
Jnftices of the Peace, who are hereby Authorized and required to hear and tinally Determine the fame, one half thereof to him, her or 
them, that f hall bring the fanie to Effect, and the other half to the Poor of the place where the Otfence fhall be committed. 

And * * » That it fhall not be Lawful for any Negro, Indian, or Mulatto Slave to fell any Oyfters in the City of Xew Tori; at 
any time wh.itfoever, upon the penalty of Twenty Shillings for every Offence, to be paid by the Mafter or Miftrefs of fuch Slave or 
Slaves, to be recovered and applied as aforefaid. This Act to be [in] Force from the Publication hereof, during the term of Five Years 
and no longer. 

Four years later (1719) the colony of New Jersey saw the matter in the same light, for the legislature 

"Whereas, it is found by daily experience, that the Oyfterbeds within this Province are wafted and deftroyed by Strangers, and 
others, at unfeafonable Times of the Year, the Preservation of which will tend to the great Benefit of the poor People and others 
inhabiting this Province ; Be it thereeoiie enacted," etc. 

The provisions were that no gathering of oysters should take idace between May 10 and September 1, and 
that no oysters should be put upon any -vessel or boat not wholly owned within the Province. For the enforcement 
of these acts .special ofiicers were named,* and legal provi.sious for seizure and xrani.shment were arranged. 

New York and New Jersey laws of 1730-'75.— In 1730 New York again found need to make a second 

' " The Perfons appointed being all dead it is thought improper to fwell the Volume by inferting their Names.— Laws, 177G. 


law in respect to shellfish, and in 1737 a third, owing to the too great demand made upon the beds around Staten 
Island by crews of boats from New England, oSTew Jersey, and elsewhere, special protective legislation for these 
waters was obtained from the colonial legislature. The preamble of this act of 1737, states the necessity for the 
law, " since it has been found by daily experience that the Oyster-Beds lying at and near Eichmond County, 
within this Colony, are wafted and Deftroyed by Strangers; the preventing of which will tend to the great Benefit 
of the poor People and others inhabiting the aforefaid Colony." The Act therefore forbids any one " directly or 
indirectly, to rake, * * * any Oyfters within this Colony, and put them on board any Canoe, Periauger, Flat, 
Scow, Boat or other Veffel whatsoever, not wholly belonging to, and owned by, Perfons who live within the aforesaid 
Colony ", under penalty of having the craft and all its contents seized. This law is almost an exact reproduction of 
the New Jersey statute of 1719. It then names ten, citizens of Eichmond county — many of whose names still figure 
in the oyster-business of Staten Island — as a police to carry out the law, and empowers them for that puri)ose. 
The method of condemning and selling the goods seized are then iJrescribed. 

In 1775, New Jersey, finding that to have her beds and markets open till May 10, when New York stopped 
work May 1, did not work well, changed her close-day to May 1 also; and in addition a new provision was enacted, 
in view of the fact that "a Practice hath prevailed of raking and gathering great Quantities of Oysters with Intent 
to burn the same for Lime only, whereby gi-eat Waste is made, and the Oyster-Beds thereby in danger of being 
entirely destroyed". The penalties against an offender under this new law were very severe. 

Both states made their laws somewhat in a spirit of mischief and retaliation, for Jerseymen then, as ever 
since, came in contact with Staten Island planters, often to the extent of mutual belligerency. 

Beginnings of oystee-ctjltuee, 1810-1835. — In spite of this protection, however, all the natural beds 
gradually gave out, and it was long ago found necessary to supplement them by artificial means. The precise date 
when oyster-planting began here it has been difficult to fix. Captain Cornelius Brittain, of Keyport, New Jersey, 
tells me, that his father was the first man to plant in York bay, about 1810. This was at Bergen point. Opposite 
his place, just below Bedloe's Island, was "Oyster Island", a flat covered by high water, where previously some 
natural oysters used to be got, but hardly within Captain Brittain's remembrance. Captain Benj. Decker, of 
Keyport, places the first bringing of Vii-giuia oysters to Prince's bay at "55 years ago", that is, in 1825. Long 
before this, certainly as early as 181G, as I learn from a newspaper advertisement at that time, cargoes were brought 
to New York from the Chesapeake ; at first, though, none were laid down to wait for growth. 

As to native oysters at Staten Island, I was told that they were certainly cultivated in Prince's bay at least 
sixty years ago. In some localities on the opposite shore the industry is probably older, since a suit was brought 
about seventy-five years ago, in old Shrewsbury township, New Jersey, originating in the question, whether or not 
a man had exclusive right to the oysters he had planted. At Keyport, planting of native oysters is ])robably not 
more than forty or fifty years old; and at Amboy, according to reijort, it was not until fifty years ago that any 
beds were staked off. 

The use of these waters for planting occasioned an immediate effect upon the villages of the neighboring 
coast which was very strikiug. "In fact," remarks a cotemporary chronicler, "the i)rosperity and rapid increase 
of the po])ulation of that island [Staten] is owing, in a considerable degree, to the oyster-trade of this city. Before 
Prince's bay was laid out in oyster-plantations there were very few persons living on it, and it was almost wholly 
uncultivated * * *. A few years after the first beds were planted an extent of coast of from five to ten miles 
was covered with oysters taken from the 'rocks' of Virginia." 

The number of men employed upon the beds in 1853, and who lived upon the island, with their families, was 
computed at 3,000. 

State laws for the protection of otstee-planters. — To encourage this new productive-industry, which 
had thus suddenly come into existence, New York and New Jersey both enacted laws calculated to protect the 
planters. They have been the object of much change and amendment, as experience ripened the judgment and 
new circumstances arose. 

At pi-esent the laws of New Y'ork applying to this subject and locality are as follows : 

General statutes : 

Forbidding any natural bed being staked off for private use, or being planted upon; forbidding any person, not 
for six months previous a resident of the state, from taking any shellfish within the state (but au actual resident 
may employ any non-resident); and prohibiting the use of any dredge weighing over 30 pounds, or operated by 

Special statutes : 

I. Asserting that no person not an inhabitant of the state may plant oysters in the waters surrounding Staten 
Island, "except the consent of the owner first be obtained"; and no non-inhabitant may take oysters or clams 
"from tiieir beds of natural growth in any of said waters". 

II. Forbidding dredging or di-agging for oysters in the neighborhood of Staten Island "upon beds of natural 
growth of oysters (not planted) ". 


III. Forbids any person taking up or disturbing oysters i^lanted under all the waters of this state suiTouuding 
Staten Island, without previous permission from the owners. 
New Jersey's laws, applying here, are substantially similar : 

I. No summer raking or sale of oysters allowed on public ground. 

II. No dredging in any shape allowed. 

III. No oysters to be gathered to be made into lime, or to be nsed in iron manufticture. 

IV. No person, not a resident of the state for six months previous, may gather oysters or clams in state waters 
for himself or for his employer. 

V. Any owners or licensed persons may plant oysters or clams upon any flats or coves (not natural beds) and 
one chain beyond the same, along the shores of Newark bay and Staten Island sound, under prescribed conditions 
of staking out, etc. A penalty is fixed for taking oysters without authority from such iuclosures. 

VI. Prohibits taking " from any natiu-al oyster-banks or beds in this state any old shells other than such as 
cannot be removed or separated from the oysters without injuring the same ; and all such shells shall be culled 
and thrown back again upon the said natural banks or beds"; but this does nob apply to private beds. 

Law-making: Quarrels and litigations. — These laws grew up one by one, and at first were misunderstood 
and willfully disregarded on all sides. Between New York and New Jersey, in the persons of the Staten Islanders 
and Jerseymen, thei'e were constant quarrels, and even open war, now and then, owing to alleged infriugemeuts of 
the vague boundary-line, by one party or the other. If one side thought they discovered that an oysterman from 
the opposite shore was jilacing his oysters within their waters, they felt no hesitancy or compunction in at once 
raking his stock up, claiming that he hadno right to this ground, and consequently the oysters he had bought and 
placed there were public plunder. Arrests for larceny would follow, tedious imprisonments ensue, armed guards 
patrol the domains of the respective states, a few men get shot, perhaps, and much trouble to the whole community 
be caused. This state of affairs has not yet ceased ; and I suppose it never will. The accusation was constantly 
being made, also, chieiiy by the penniless and shiftless, against prosperous planters, that natural-growth ground 
had been staked oft' and was being used privately, to the detriment of the general welfare of the community. Then, 
too, there were plenty of persons who altogether disputed any rights of property in planted oj'sters, and failed by 
their conduct to recognize the law which said there were such rights. Nor, in northern New Jersey at least, was it 
until fifty years had elaijsed after the laws relating to planted oysters had first been published, that the subject was 
finally and clearly settled by the supreme court. On an appeal from Cape May, tried in 1858, it was charged that 
Thomas Taylor had stolen oysters to the value of $18 from George Hildreth. This time the question of the right to 
oysters planted where there was no natural growth was reached and decided. The coiinsel for the defendant 
(T;iylor) pleaded that " oysters being animals /era' natune, there can be no proijerty in them unless they be dead, or 
reclaimed, or tamed, or in the actual power or possession of the claimant". 

The chief justice, in giving the ojiinion of the court, said : 

The iirinciple advanced bj- defendant's connsel, as applied to animals ferce natura, is not questioned. But oysters, though usually 
included in that description of animals, do not come within the reason or operation of the rule. The owner has the same absolute 
property in them that he has in inanimate things or domestic animals. Like domestic animals, they continue perpetually in his occupation 
and will not stray from his house or person. Unlike animals fer(x natura; they do not require to be reclaimed and made tame by art, 
industry, or education, nor to be confined iu order to be within the immediate power of the owner. If at liberty, they have neither the 
inclination nor power to escape. For the purposes of the present inquiry they are obviously more nearly allied to tame animals than to 
wild ones, and perhaps more nearly allied to inanimate objects than to animals of either description. The indictment could not aver that 
the oysters were dead, for they would then be of no value ; nor that they were reclaimed or tamed, for in this sense they were never wild 
and were not capable of domestication ; nor that they were confined, for that would be absurd. 

It was the decision of the court that the owner has the same absolute property in oysters that he has in 
inanimate things or domestic animals, and that an indictment would lie for stealing oysters planted iu a public or 
navigable river, where oysters do not grow naturally, and the spot designated by stakes or otherwise. 

On the other hand, courts decided that action does not lie for taking oysters claimed as planted in a common 
navigable stream in which others were found. The court seemed to consider the throwing of oyster-plants where 
there is a natural gro\vth as an abandonment, and compared it to a man "who should take a deer in a forest and 
be simpleton enough to let it go again in the same forest, saying, ' this is my deer, and no man shall touch it;' it 
would never be asked by the next taker what was the intention of the simpleton; the very act of letting it go was 
an abandonment." 

Virginia seed and native seed. — In early days Virginia oysters were mc re largely planted than now, except 
by a few New York dealers, and the beds of natives were supplied by seed found at home or at most in York bay, it 
merely being necessary to gather it up from the scattered spots where it lay or had "struck", and place it upon the 
private bed.s ; the immediate waters of Staten Lsland or the neighboring coasts have furnished little or no seed. It 
is seventy years, I was told by Capt. Benjamin Decker — to whom I am greatly indebted for information — since any 
young oysters have " struck" along the southern shore of the island, iu quantities worth getting. The great natural 
beds there and in the mouth of the Earitan and the beds olf Shrewsbury, were exhausted years and years ago, and 
although now and then small deposits of young oysters are found in various parts of these waters, no reliance is 
8 o 


placed upon such a soiirce of seed. Sixty years ago old oystermen remember working upon the " Cbingora" bed, 
two miles below Keyport; and upon the then famous " State-beds" just at the Earitau river light-house. Now 
artificial planting covers both these banks. Fifteen years ago a bed of wild oysters was discovered down near the 
southwest buoy, and is supposed to have oiiginated from spawn drifted across from Fort Hamilton, where the rocks 
conceal many oysters in their crevices. Since then small patches are occasionally found elsewhere. This sporadic 
growth seems entirely due to the native oysters planted in the sound, for during all the years previous that "Virginias" 
were planted in the greatest profusion, nothing of the sort occurred. Though the southern oysters would survive the 
winter, as a rule, and were even kept over two winters, when it was undesirable to sell them, they never spawned 
effectually, and are considered by the oystermen incapable of doing so, who attribute all the " set" which occurs 
anywhere in that vicinity to northern stock. I have had no opportunity of jiroving this, right or wrong, but am 
inclined to believe it true. This year a ruinously large proportion of the southern stock planted died. 

I may mention, in this connection, that on the New Jersey shore much oyster-spawn "catches" every year in 
all the creeks, and a certain portion of it survives., A common experience is to find it attached to the sedges. By 
autumn such will become so heavy as to fall in the water, and the main part of it will die. What survives, however, 
will be as big as half a dollar, and are caught for seed. Enough remains, nevertheless, to tempt a few fishermen to 
return the very day the summer close-time expires, and rake again. What they get are "yellow as gold", and of 
extraordinary quality. These oysters are culled "naturals", and are only enough to supply the home-tables for a 
few days, at extravagant prices. I see no reason why the judicious throwing of shells or other cultch in these creek- 
mouths would not save large quantities of this fine seed. It would be objected to by the populace, however, no 
doubt, on the plea that it was " natural ground" — an argument that mrght serve for any part of all these shores, 
which have occasionally been covered with the spawn along their whole extent. 

The southern oysters that formerly made the chief business of these shores were variously known as "Virginia 
seed ", " Chesapeakes", " soft", and " fresh" oysters. I restrict myself in the use of the word " seed ", however, to 
the very small native nortbern oysters which were transplanted to private beds, and allowed from eighteen months' 
to two years' growth. The business was certainly very extensive for the condition of the oyster-market; nor has 
it yet more than declined, since probably 300,000 bushels are annually laid down even now. 

Methods of culture, past anb present. — The methods of work were aud are not different from those 
pursued elsewhere in respect to southern oysters, and need not be redes(;ribed in detail. Eappahannock and York 
river stock seems to have been i^referred always in this district, and a large uumber of sloops and schooners ran 
each spring to and from those rivers. The crews of these vessels were not only native Jerseymen or Staten 
Islanders, but often Chesaiieake men, who came up for a brief season's work, and then returned to their homes. 

"They are required," says an account written in 1853, "in the transplanting of a bed, to heave the oysters 
overboard, to clean the bed about once a year, aud perform various other work of a. like description. The cleaning 
of the beds takes place generally every fall, and is accomplished by means of 'scrapers', singular looking 
instruments, somewhat resembling scythes, with this exception, that at one side of the blade a large bag, constructed 
of iron ring-work, like many purses we have seen, is attached. Into this all the scouriugs of the bed, cleaned off 
with the front of the blade, fall, and the whole is hauled up at regular intervals and deposited in the boat, to be 
afterwaixl thrown into the ciirrent. In this manner the whole floor of the bed is scraped quite clean, after which 
it is considered fit for the reception of the oysters. The process of cleaning a bed is performed by the vessels under 
full sail. It is a very laborious task. 

"The oyster companies have to pay about $1 a year each for the privilege of planting in a jjortion of Prince's 
bay, called Ward's point, which is regarded as admirably adapted for the purpose. As many as 1,000,000 bushels 
of oysters are scattered in this favorite locality yearly ; but it is the only part of the bay for which the dealers are 
required to pay. Each company have their own ground marked out, and the whole space thus occupied extends 
over ten miles in length by about five in breadth. The depth of water varies from 8 to 25 feet. Besides the 
Virginia oysters, there are several other kinds planted in this bay, among which are the East river and Delaware 

The war of the Eebellion interfered greatly with this industry, and bad a great influence in turning the current 
of oyster-planting toward the cultivation of home-stock. 


Culture of transplanted native oysters. — Turning now to the consideration of the growing of 
transplanted native oysters, I find that this is gradually superseding the other (southern) planting, the objection 
to that being that, witb higher prices at tbe south and lower selling-rates in the north, too many risks are attached 
to make it profitable. Tbe plauters of old, elated by their profits, which, during the war of tbe Eebellion were 
very large, over-crowded the grounds and each other, until the business nearly collapsed. The present revival 
in the line of growing natives is likely to prove equally profitable in a sounder way. But this planting of native 
seed-oysters in New York bay is an old industry. In 1853, for example, it was stated that there were at least 1,000 
men employed in cultivating "York Bays" for tbe purpose of sbii)ping them. "Tbe hardness of their shell and tbe 


peculiar saltness of the meat render them better adapted for shipping than any others, and they are, therefore, used 
ahiiost whollj' for the western trade. The boats employed in transporting them from the N"orth river and Newark 
bay to the artificial beds are open, and are each generally manned by three or four men * # *. These men work 
in sloops and skiffs owned by themselves. The owners of each boat are also proprietors of one or more beds planted 
by themselves. There are about 200 boats, altogether, each of which is valued at an average of $800." 

Oyster intekests of Staten Island in 1853. — In reviewing the interests, during the same year, of the 
south side of Staten Island, whence came the "Sound" oysters of the markets, the Herald estimated the business 
as follows : 

From 150 to 200 men are employed in their cultivation, or in bringing them to market, an<l the value of the whole amount sold 
(luring the year does not exceed §150,000. The boats used in trauspl.intiug and in transporting them to this city are sloops and skiiJ's, or 
open boats, cacli being manned liy three or four hands. The average value of each boat is about ijidOO, and the whole amount of 
invested in the sound-tr.ade, including boats and beds, m.ay be estimated at $250,000. 

It is added that one-third of all the seed planted at that time came out of the North river, from beds "which 
extend at intervals from Piermont to Sing Sing", where the growth was said to be exceedingly quick and abundant, 
but the oysters, especially those from the higher beds, of inferior quality, and wholly useless until transplanted.* 

Oyster-culture about Staten Island. — The home resources along the shores of Staten Island, in York 
bay and the North river, having long ago been exhausted, or greatly depleted, the planters in Prince's bay and on 
the Jersey shore now get "seed" oysters, with which to stock their beds, wherever they can. The chief source is 
Newark bay and Earltan river, though the North and East rivers and Long Island sound are drawn npon. A 
considerable quantity of seed is brought from as far away as Fair Haven and Blue Point. In most cases the planters 
themselves gather what they use, by going after it in their own sloops, taking a small boat and a man to help. 
There is no reason why they should know precisely the number of bushels they cull out of their tongs and carry- 
home, or why they should endeavor to calculate its exact cost. It would be difdcult, therefore, for them to answer 
precise questions as to how much they got, or what it cost them, let alone how much they had upon their beds at a 
given time. For what they buy, from 30 to 40 cents a bushel was paid last season, to the many persons who made 
a practice of catching seed to sell. I maj mention here an incidental custom. 

Whenever the tides are especially low, there is a hurried concourse of people along the shore to pick up the 
raoUusks, old and young, disclosed by the retreating iiood, who work as far out as they possibly can. Such a 
general turnout is an interesting sight and an important fact to the planters, many of whose beds are bounded on 
the shoreward side by ordinary low-water mark. Though an extra low tide discloses grounds and beds of planted 
oysters legally held, the eager populace regard it as no infringement to pick up from such planted grounds, whenever 
they can reach them unobstructed. The truth is, this ground, occasionally exposed by the tide, is debatable 
territory, and the planters find it prudent not to contest the matter, but to be especially vigilant over their property, 
lest unscrupulous persons, of whom there are many, shall wade in to the beds and make a wholesale theft, under 
excuse of low water. 

Oyster-culture at Keyport and Perth Amboy. — The seed usually gathered at Keyport and vicinity 
grows on soft mud and in sedgy places, and hence is long, slender, crooked, and ill-shaped. It is roughly culled on 
the boat, as soon as caught, and sold by the basket or bushel. Planted in from 10 to 15 feet depth of water, purer, 
Salter, and upon a better bottom than before, it rounds out into good shape, and grows with considerable rapidity, in 
good seasons. Tte best bottom is a thin layer of mud overlying sand, and the best time for planting is in March, 
April, and May. As a total of the bushels of seed planted last spring, nothing better than an estimate is possible, 
and I consider the best way to make this estimate, is to consider that the crop, each year, is about equal to what is 
planted, the growth making up for the loss. I know the crop of northern oysters of the region under re^iew amounts 
to about 250,000 bushels, which may also be taken to represent the amount of seed put on the beds. Multiplying 
this by 35, the average price per bushel, you have $87,500 as the total amount of capital sunk iu stocking the beds. 
From 100 to 150 per cent, added, gives the amount of sales, after two to three years' waiting, and the expenditure of 
a considerable outlay in handling. 

* Before lea\'ing this point, I may add an opinion expressed by the late Count L. F. de Pourt.ales, in a report to the Coast Survey, about 
ten years ago, iu respect to the oyster-beds of the United States, regarding the North river. He wrote : 

" Having been informed that oysters are obtained for purposes of planting, from the Hudson river, I visited Sing Sing, which had been 
indicated .as about the highest poiut at which oysters .are found. My visit was, unfortunately, after the close of the fishing season, the Ist of 
June ; bnt I had the good fortune to be referred to the oldest fisherman of the vicinity, a colored man named Brady, at Sp.arta, from whom 
I obtained some valuable information. He had found oysters as high up as Cruger's, above Croton point, but they were subject to 
considerable vicissitudes there, being at times entirely destroyed by freshets or ice. From .another informant I learned, that oil' Croton 
poiut there existed considerable beds of oysters, but all dead. According to Mr. Slitchell's observations, the specific gravity of the water 
at the bottom oft' Cruger's is 1.003 at the end of flood, and only 1.001 at the end of ebb. The best and largest oysters are now found in 
the deepest parts, 20 to 25 feet, but they are rather scarce now. Formerly they were abundant and grew close to the shore, where none 
are found now. This Brady attributed to the construction of the railroad skirting the shore — a pl.ansible ex])lanation — since the washing 
of the embankment must have produced a layer of mud, in Vhich they have become smothered. The clearing of the forests in the basin 
of the Hudson must have had, also, a considerable influence in checking the growth of oysters by mud deposits. There is no regular 
business of oyster-catching as high up as Sing Sing, aa the town laws prohibit strangers from taking oysters, and the inhabitants take 
only a few for their own use." 


The method pursued in this region has grown to be careful and systematic, and furnishes employment to a 
considerable number of men not planters. In the spring, as soon as the weather gets fairly settled, the "natives", 
intended to be sent to market the following fall, are taken up from the place where they lie, culled over, and 
cleaned, if needful, and relaid, more thinly, on a new bed. Usually this is. a movement from a soft to a harder 
bottom, and sometimes to a region of fresher water. At Perth Amboy, however, oysters shifted are iilaced further 
down the bay. It operates advantageously in two ways: by repressing the tendency to spawn, whieh is 
undesirable ; and by giving them the benetit of a change of water and food. Moreover, on the sand they will tend 
to grow round and shapely beyond their ability to do so when ci'owded in the mud, while the fresher water will 
make them fiitter. The actual result, nevertheless, is sometimes disappointing, particularly if there be no current 
over the new bed to bring a steady supply of fresh food. 

The man who has only a few hundred bushels will do this "shifting", as it is termed, himself; but for the large 
planters it is usually done by a contractor, either for a lump sum or for an amount of pay based upon an estimate 
of the quantity, or at the rate of 10 to 15 cents per bushel, according to the density of the oyster-beds, and hence 
the time to be consiimed. In either case the cost is about the same. One gentleman told me he paid $1,300 to 
have 11,000 bushels shifted under the first-named arrangement. While this is going on the southern cargoes are 
being laid upon the beds, and at Keyport a score or more of negi'oes, from Norfolk, annually appear as laborers, 
returning, at the end of the work, to their homes. 

Growth op oysters in New York bay. — The growth of oysters transplanted to these New York bay waters 
is reasonably raj)id, though not as fast as occurs in the Great South bay of Long Island. The usual expectation 
is to leave the beds undisturbed for three years, then shift in the spring and market in the fall. As planting of 
seed occurs both spi'ing and fall, the crop of every year is thus the first of a series of six. All "naturals", that is, 
local oysters, planted, will outgrow foreign seed, doubling in size in a single season. This, manifestly, is because 
they suffer no change of locality, and do not need to become acclimated. The oysters from the sound, however, 
have been used largely for European trade for the last two or three years, and have acquired a high reputation. 
These do not require to lie three years, since they are wanted of small size. 

Captain Benjamin Decker, whom I have quoted before, relates that some years ago he had a strange experience 
in this direction: a bed of oysters, which he planted at Keyport, doubled their size in a single month! "I sold 
these oysters in the New Y^ork market," he says, "and they sold well. The shells were so thin you could see the 
light through them. They beat anything in the market. The growth was wonderful. I sowed them thin, and j-et 
they choked one another. I should think at least half of them died from this cause." 

Sum:mer rest and autumn work in Keyport and vicinity. — By the end of May all work upon the 
beds ceases, beyond taking up an occasional boat-load to supply the weak summer-demand. The condition of the 
beds is watched closely, however, by the anxious owners, since it is the midsummer months that determine whether 
the oysters will report themselves "good" in the fall, or the reverse; which means a profitable business, or the 
reverse. If the season is hot, equable, and reasonably calm, all is expected to go well. Heavy storms and great 
freshets in July and August, on the other hand, i)roduce thin and poor oysters, which will not bring a good price. 
The ill-success of the beds along the Keyport and Raritan shores last year is attributed to this cause. 

Early in September the business of taking up the oysters for market begins. This is done by tonging, from 
small boats, near which a sloop anchors upon the bed, in which the men are quickly carried out and home again, 
and easily transport their load. Thus the larger part of the harvest is gathered, until the oysters become scarce 
upon the ground. Then a dredge is thrown over from the sloop, which cruises back and forth across the ground, 
until it is wholly cleaned up. Tonging over the side of a skiff is hard enough work, and requires sturdy, broad- 
chested men ; but dredging is a still more terrihle strain upon the muscles, when it comes to dragging the heavy 
lion frame and bag up from the rough bottom, and lifting it and its load over the rail on to the deck of the vessel. 
Many of the newer and larger sloops are now })rovided with a windlass, si)ecially adapted to dredging, which 
relieves the crews to a great extent of the old hand-over-hand back-breaking labor. Drag-rakes are also used very 
frequently on these grounds, having very long, limber handles. 

" Giving the oysters a drink." — A sloop-load of oysters — from 200 to 800 bushels, according to the size 
of the boat — having been secured, the owner's next stop is to "give them a drink". This he does by throwing 
them overboard, for a short time, in the fresh or partially fresh waters of some creek. The Amboy and Staten 
Island men find this largely in the vicinity of Rahway, New Jersey, where they lay their cargoes on the shore or 
sometimes in floats. The work is largely done by men belonging there, who are paid in oysters, receiving a bushel for 
about two hours' helping, which is usually what each master requires of them. The Keyport men have a little 
creek running through the town, which is crowded with floats, skiffs, and the implements of work. It is a scene of 
extraordinary activity, which may be witnessed here in autumn every day, as the oysters are being culled and 
prepared for sale. 

The object of this "drinking" is to allow the oyster to become cleansed and freshened in taste. Finding 
themselves once again in the water, the oysters all open, and, as the men say, "s])it out" all the impurities which 
are to be found clinging to the edges of the mantle and gills of a sea-oyster, just within the shell, and they do this 
at once, so that usually a single tide is a long enough time to leave them in the fresh water. Moreover, imbibing 


the fresh water causes them to change in color somewhat, makinjj the flesh a purer white; and it bloats them into 
an ajipearance of extreme fatness, which is very appetizing. Most persous believe this to be a true increase of 
substance and weight, but it is no more than a puffing up. 

Picking and culling. — Before the oysters are thrown into the fi-CvSh water they are picked over somewhat, 
and the worthless stuff is thrown upon the banks of the stream — dead oysters, periwinkles, conchs, stones, and 
much other useless matter. Another more particular sorting remains to be done after the stock is taken from the 
stream, and before being sent to the city. This consists in knocking bunches to pieces and assorting into the various 
sizes known to the trade, and is technically known as "culling". All of the refuse-stuff resulting from these 
manipulations is heaped upon the bank, and is used to fill in low spots, or carted away to be burned into lime. 
Late in the fall this is terribly cold work. Nowadays the oysters are dipped out of the shallow water with forks, 
similar to the farmers' dung-forks, and the men wear rubber-boots that reach to their waists, but the old oysterraen 
remember very well the winter terrors of the time before rubber-boots were invented and when they picked uj) the 
oj'sters with their fingers. 

Winter gleanings. — The main crop has been gathered by the time Christmas is near, but many scattered 
oysters yet remain, that have escaped both tongs and dredges. The grounds are then given up to the laborers, who 
have been employed, during the summer and fall, and under a new imiiulse these men go over the grounds again 
with tongs and dredge. They work on shares usually, returning to the owner of the beds one-half of the results, 
which makes a really handsome thing for the gleaners, whose work, in this way, lasts from two to three weeks, 
making three or four days a week, each man often clearing as his portion from four to five dollars a day. At any 
rate, such generally is the practice, with its results, at Keyport, New Jersey, "where for many years the principle 
of the good old biblical rule, of not forgetting the gleaners, is almost religiously observed in the last gathering of 
this harvest of the sea." 

New York oyster-laws. — At the principal ports of this oyster-region New York firms have agents who buy 
and pack oysters for shipment to the west, to Europe, to New York, or Philadelphia; city dealers also cruise about 
the beds in vessels and buy loads of stock trom the various planters; and the planters themselves carry their stock 
to the New York market in their sloops, to be disposed of at the best advantage, or vie with one another in noisy 
rivalry in pre|)aring the bivalves and getting them first to the steamboat for the city. 

The Albany oyster-market flpty years ago. — ^A pleasing tradition has been preserved of the days long 
ago, before the oyster-business became organized into the commercial system, which now handles the enormous supply 
that finds its way into every county of every state in the Union. It is contained in the Eev. Samuel Lockwood's 
articles upon American oysters, published in the Popular Science Montldy for 1874. One of the great markets for 
oystermen forty to fifty years ago was Albany, New York. The sloops would sail up the river, and sometimes forty 
of them, loaded to the rail, would lie at the wharves of that city disposing of their living cargoes. From Albany, 
which also derived a large amount of oysters and clams from Fairhaven, at the same time, they would be taken back 
into the country in wagons, over the Erie canal as far as Buffalo, or sent northward bj^ stage to Lake Champlaiu. 
If uusuc(;essful in selling to good advantage at Albany, the shippers would sail down and peddle their stock through 
the towns along the banks. Out of this arose the systematic practice which Professor Lockwood describes in the 
following i^aragraphs : 

Before the railroad (lays, our oyster-growers used early in the fall to cauvass the villages on the Hudson river for orders, to he tilled 
just before the river should be closed with ice. The meaning of this is, that these men committed themselves to supply oysters iu the shell, 
■with the guarantee that the bivalves thus supplied should not die before their time came. The oysters were actually kept alive during 
the greater part of the long winter. The fat bivalves were handled with some care, and were spread on the cellar-floor, the round or 
lower side down, so .as not to allow the liquor to escape. 

That such a life required a great change of capacity or habit in the bivalves is evident ; and it needed a training, yes, an education, 
ere the oyster attained to such ability. And this was the way it was done : Beginning early in the fall, the cultivator of the oyster took 
up the fat bivalves from their bed where he had jjlanted them, and laid them a little higher up on the shore, so that for a short time each 
day they were exposed out of the water. After a few days of this exposure by the retreating tide, they were moved a little higher still on 
the shore-line, which gave them a little longer exposure to the air at each low tide. And this process was continued, each remove resulting 
in a longer exposure. And with what results f Two very curious ones : inurement to exposure, and the inculcation of a provident habit 
of making preparation for the same. What ! providence in an oyster ? Yes, when he's educated. When accustomed to this treatment, 
ere the tide retires, the oyster takes a good hard drink, and retains the same until the tide returns. Once, while waiting for the stage at 
a country hostelry, we overheard the following between two rustic practitioners at the bar: "Come, Swill, let's take a drink!" "Well, I 
don't know. Ain't dry myself. Hows'ever, guess I will take a drink, for fear I might get dry !" With better philosophy on their side, 
these educated oysters, twice in every twenty-four hours, took their precautionary drink. 

The French method of oyster-training is much more laborious. The adult bivalves are carefully spread out in the water, and periodical 
lessons are given to each one individually. Each oyster, on this occasion, receives a tap, not with a ferule, but with a small iron instrument. 
This causes the bivalve to close tightly. Finally the last day comes with its last premonitory tap. Its education thus finished, it takes 
passage, with its fellow-graduates, for Paris. As a result of its education, it knows how to keep its mouth shut when it enters society! 

Prices of oysters, past and present. — The prices reported as received for oysters in 1840, did not greatly 
differ from the present figures ; they were : 

For the poorest 50 cents per bushel. 

For "Cullens" 83 50 to §5 00 per 1,000. 

For "Big ones" $7 00 to §10 00 per 1,000. 

For "Extras" §15 00 to §25 00 per 1,000. 


Virginia oysters sold for about 20 per cent, less than the above-given, which were all "hard", in the parlance 
of the period. 

During the war of the Eebellion, when the southern fields were cut off from the northern markets to a great 
extent, the Staten Island i^lanters reaped a rich harvest. Their beds were unusually produ(;tive, and the jirices 
were double what thej' now are, in many cases. At present the receipts are about the same as have prevailed for 
several years, except that the season of lS78-'79, following upon a period of financial depression, and characterized 
hy misfortune in the growth of the moUusks, showed lower rates paid than ever before or since. Prices depend 
largely upon the quality of the ditfereut beds, and vary with localities. Virginia oysters from Prince's bay are 
considered the best. Of natives, those grown in the sound are favorites ; these supplied a large part of the shipments 
to Enroi)e in 1879-'S0, and gave better satisfaction than any others sent. Perth Amboy and Key[)ort were the 
packing-points. The prices received by the planters for the different kinds of Staten Island oysters last year (1879) 
were from 10 to 20 per cent, less than the previous year, up to which time the price for a long time has averaged $1 
per bushel, taking aU grades and sizes together. In 1878, one man told me his whole croii averaged him $1 30 i)er 
bushel, but this was exceptionally good. In the fall and winter of 1879-80, however, lots sold at $1 were rare, 
and the average price of "Sounds" and the best "Prince's Bays" (natives) did not average over 80 or 90 cents, while 
Totteuville oysters, with few exceptions, failed to come up to this even, 75 to 80 cents being reported for the most 
part. This will no doubt revive shortly. 

In Perth Amboy, for the Eui'opean stock, $2 to $2 50 per barrel was paid by the shippers ; but this was called 
a very poor i>rice, and, it is well known, proved highly profitable to shippers. For other oysters from 60 to 80 
cents a bushel was paid for medium stock, and from $1 to $1 25 for larger, of which not much was sold; but the 
average probably would not exceed 90 cents. 

In Keyport, for " bushels", 40 cents, $3 to $3 50 per thousand for "culls", and $6 to $7 for "box" size. A large 
number of Kej-port's oysters go by rail to Ocean Grove, Ocean Beach, Long Branch,^ and other summer resorts on 
the coast. 

Drawbacks to oyster-cultivation. — The visible drawbacks to oyster-cultivation between the East river 
and Sandy Hook, are not very numerous, but likely to be unforeseen and significant when they occur. One 
misfortune, however, to which the last remark does not well apply, is the fact that the sewage and waste pollution 
of the factories of Jersey City have so corrupted the shallow water along the Bergen shore, called York bay, as to 
ruin those j^lanting grounds. At present the only way in which they can be utilized by oyster-growers, is to raise 
there large seed, which shall be taken elsewhere and given a year's growth and piuification. Whether this trouble 
is exaggerated or not, I cannot say from jiersonal experiment. 

^^ Hairing mj)." — I was told by Captain Wood, of Pleasant Plains, Long Island, that his oysters nowadays 
"haii'ed up", by which he meant that a growth of hydroids, and perhaps also of sea-weed, grew upon them to such 
an extent as to keep them poor. This might operate thus in two ways : a luxurious hydroid wonld both consume 
and tend to keep from entering its mouth a jiart of the mollusk's food-snpply ; and it might also form eddies, acting 
as an impediment to catch drifting matter, weeds, and the like, until the mollusks were partially buried and 
smothered. I believe, however, that the danger from this source is of little account; while some fishermen assured 
me that to have the red-beard, and gray-beard, Serfularia argentca, and several other hydroids and bryozoa, which 
pass under the general name of "sciuf " and "yellow moss", appear plentifully on the beds, was a sure sign that 
the oysters were doing well. 

Mussels. — A more serious cause of disquietude, and one I here met with for the first time, is the fastening 
of great quantities of young black mussels, Modiola pUcaiula, on the oyster-beds. This happened last year in certain 
parts of Prince's bay to a formidable extent. It is liable to occur also in the lower part of the East river, but I 
have heard no complaint from there. It is not my purpose in these chapters to do more than mention tlie enemies 
present at a i)articular point, reserving a fuller description of each for a si^ecial chapter. This nuisance varies 
somewhat with different years, and at Keyport, perhaps owing to favorable currents, seems not to happen at all. 

Drums, skates, and rays. — A less constant though more openly destructive agent of e\'il is tlie drum-fish, 
Pogonias chromis, which is here at its worst, and once in a few years completely devastated many beds, picking up 
thousands of mollusks, crushing them in his iiowerfnl teeth, and droijping the fragments, heedless of uuschief. 
Thirty years ago was the weU-remembered drum-fish year, and since then only occasional forays have been 
committed by them. 

The skates and the sting-ray — especially the latter — are a source of constant damage, the amount of which 
aggregates a large sum every year. The clever device, described in the chapter on the oyster's enemies, by wLich 
the drum-fish seem to have been frightened away, avails nothing in the case of the "stiugaree", whose devastations 
seem unavoidable and of the most importance of all oyster-foes. 

Starfishes and drills. — Starfish very rarely occur, and the periwinkles and conchs are of small account in doing 
harm, but in 1878 the drill, Urosalpinx cinerea, proved himself a great nuisance about East point, injuring many 
beds there beyond repair. Since that time, however, little has been seen of him. 

Plate XXXII. 

Monoiraph-0 YSTER- IKD USTR Y. 

Ixci,osi-D Dock roR Oystek-Vesskls at Pkuth Amisoy, N. J. 



Easterly gales. — Eastward gales are likely to move the bottom of Staten Island sound iu an unfortunate 
manner, and every planter has his tale of beds lost by being buried under drifted sand, or swept out of existence. 
This kind of a wind is rare, however. Winters hard enough to kill the oysters have occurred, but not lately, 
except that in 1878-79 cold weather, high winds, and low tides coming together, have exposed the Earitau beds and 
destroyed large portions of them. In the Earitan river, particularly at Perth Amboy, the oystermeu are obliged to 
erect strong quadrangular slips or docks, inside which they may crowd with their sloops and oyster-boats and cull 
their oysters in peace, since the winter-sea in the harbor is likely to be too rough to permit work. This is an 
important item of expense to them. In this connection I may quote Mr. Samuel Lockwood's words, written in 1873 : 

It will be news to many to leani that the business of the oyster-producer is one of great risk. All is not gain to these industrious 
people, for often capital is sunk in the waters that is never taken up. Many years ago we remember the then small village of Keyport 
Buttering a loss in one season of .$50,000. Even a severe storm, continued unusually long, has smothered the beds by agitation of the mud, 
for the oyster must keep its uili out of the bottom. But two seasons ago, in one of the branches of Shrewsbury river, a crop was almost 
entirely lost, the supposition being that it was poisoned by the washing from a new turnpike, iu the construction of which a peculiar 
ferruginous earth had been used. Formerly the oyster throve as a native as high up the North river as Peekskill, and probably its limit 
was not below fifty miles from the mouth of the river. They are now, however, exceedingly scarce, even as high as Croton. The belief 
exists that the railroad has destroyed them by the washing from the necessary working of the road, which is constantly findiug its way 
to the river-bed. .So long ago as 18.11, Col. John P. Cruger, of Cruger's Landing, a very intelligent observer, called our attention to tho 
fact of the mischief thus done. 

And there are meteoric causes which aflect the oyster. We have known an unusually severe winter to kill the bivalves in great 
numbers. And even the seed, in its transport from Virginia, has been destroyed — whole valuable cargoes — by foggy weather and adverse 

Vessels. — The Earitan planters are also troubled by vessels grounding upon their beds and ruining from 100 
to 500 bushels at once. There are no authorized buoys or light-houses to point out the proper channel to strangers, 
and there is, I believe, no redress. The planters complained to me sharply concerning this matter, and thought 
that legal protection should be given them, but I did not learn precisely what they wanted from the federal 

Thieves. — Another sort of trouble arises from the ubiquitous thief, who is said to flourish greatly in the 
neighborhood of Staten Island. In those waters which lie between the island and the New Jersey shore, there 
has always been contention and litigation, resulting in constant arrests and bad feeling back and forth, through 
alleged violations of state boundaries and the rights which each state reserves to its own citizens. One planter 
at Perth Amboy wrote me that " in spite of all vigilance and paj'ing watchmen, we lose all around about 10 per 
cent, every year by thieves". 

The oystermen. — Notwithstanding these obstructions to perfect success, the oyster-interests of New York bay 
are the livelihood of a considerable number of people, though it is probable that the poi>ulation at present supported 
by them is reduced by at least a quarter ft-om the total of ten years ago. All the inhabitants of the southern half 
of Long Island may be called oystermen, since many of them have invested a little in the beds in some shape, or 
work more or less on hire for the regular growers. Exactly how many real planters there are on the island I 
could not ascertain iu the time at my command ; they are scattered everywhere, but chiefly live at Pleasant Plains, 
Tottenville, Eossville, and Chelsea. On the north shore live many New York merchants, like the Van Names, etc., 
who plant southern oysters almost entirely. Their capital, also, with that of many other New York dealers, whose 
names do not appear, aids a large number of outside planters who are, in fact, only managers of the under-water 
estates which they apparently own and operate. This is not derogatory to their personal worth or dignity, but 
only one of the methods of trade, shaped by peculiarities of the laws bearing upon the subject. 

By the operations in oyster-culture in and about the various centers withui the range of this chapter, I 
conclude the number of families wholly supported to be somewhat as follows : 


At Prince's bay, Staten Island 50 

At Tottenville, Staten Island 75- 

Remainder of Staten Island 25 

Perth Amboy 75 

Keyport and south shore 400 

Total 625 

It must not be supposed that each one of the heads of these 625 families plants and harvests enough oysters to 
supply his expenses, not to say profits, every year. That would be true only of the minority. But each one owns 
a piece of ground and works on it to the extent of his means. At other times he hires his services to his richer 
neighbors, or digs and rakes clams. Each man o-wns a small boat, worth from $20 to $75, and the most of them 
have a sailboat, which, if for practical use alone, will be worth from $200 to $500, but if intended to answer the 
larger purpose of dredging, carrying oysters to the city, and pleasure-excursions iu summer, may be valued as high 
as $2,000. The boats of all sorts hereabouts are of superior workmanship. The wages received by laborers, who 
require a certain degree of skill, range from $2 to $2 50 a day, the men bringing their own boat and tools. Twelve 



and a half cents a bushel is the usual price paid in "catching up" for market. The seed-planting, spring and fall, 
the watching of the beds, and culling of the oysters on shore, are the chief requirements of work done on days' 
wages, for the shifting is chiefly done by contract. 

The OYS'i'ER-FLEET. — The oyster-fleet between New York city and Sandy Hook is very large. Almost 
innumerable crafts, with ti'im sails, crowd the bay on working-days. The sail-boats used here are of good build, 
and often cost $3,000, while an unusually good quality of clinker-built, shallow-draft keel-boats, called skiffs, worth 
from $75 to $125, are used. A third sort of small boat is flat-bottomed and straight-sided, like a small Connecticut 
sharpie ; this is known as a bateau, and costs from $15 to $30. Two skiffs and a bateau may be coimted for every 
regular oyster- sloop or cat-boat. 

The net results. — The total product of Staten Island beds, so far as I could ascertain, is as follows, the time 
being the season of 1879-'80. This enumerates only the native oysters, since I could learn of only about 15,000 
bushels a year of southern oysters planted at present around Staten Island, except those brought north by New 
York city dealers, and counted in the chapter devoted to the metropolis. The total product is : 


At Prince's bay 50,000 

By Tottenville planters 55,000 

By Chelsea planters 25,000 

Total 130,000 

Add to this : 

For Perth Amboy 100.000 

For Keyport and South shore 25,000 

Total 255,000 

Southern oysters not counted for New York city planters 175,000 

Grand total of all kinds 430,000 

Estimates in eecapitulation : 

Perth Amboy 
Tottenville .. 
Prince's bay . 




100, 000 
65, 000 
60, 000 
25, 000 
25, 000 

255, 000 


10, 000 

*160, 000 

176, 000 




* Many more Virginia oysters are planted in Keyport, but the rest are owned and counted in New York city. 

Statistical eecapitulation for New York bay: 

Number of planters, wholesale dealers, and shippers 500 

Extent of ground cultivated, about acres.. 2,250 

Number of vessels and sail-boats engaged, about 400 

Value of same, with equipment $200,000 

Number of men hired by planters or dealers 125 

Annual earnings of same $62, 500 

Total number of families supported 625 

Annual sales of — 

I. Native oysters bushels.. 255,000 

Value of same $250,000 

n. Chesapeake "plants"' bushels.. 175,000 

Value of same „„ , $125,000 

Total value of oysters sold annually...... ,.....„., ..r... ..........•.•'>»•.. •^••...••..•••. $375,000. 




Historic oystek-firms. — Most of the Kew York oyster-firms are of long standing, and the same names 
appear which are conspicuous in the oyster-annals of City Island and Staten Island, for these two localities have 
supplied the most of them. Van Name, Houseman, Silsbee, Wright, Burbank, Boyle, Frazer, Woglom, Decker, 
and others, are examples. Many of the gentlemen now conducting the business under these names only succeeded 
their fathers and grandfathers, who established the trade they enjoy. The growth of the opportunities of business, 
however, has been very rapid, and has brought in many new men, conspicuous among whom are George H. Shaffer 
«& Co., of Fulton market. 

Van Kortlandt's teeasuke-teote. — When the sage Van Kortlandt, surnamed Oloffe the Dreamer, after 
his dreadful shipwreck in the goblin-haunted whirlpools of Hell Gate, had brought the remnant of his command to 
land on the southern end of IMaua-hata, an island which divided the bosom of the bay, bis first anxiety was for 
something to eat, for "Van Kortlandt was a devout trencherman ". How he fared we learn from the veritable history 
of Diedrich Knickerbocker : 

The stores which hiwl been provided for the voyajje by the good housewives of Commimipaw were nearly exhausted, but, in easting 
his eyes about, the commodore beheld that the shore abounded with oysters. A gi'eat store of these was instantly collected ; a fire was 
made at the foot of a tree ; all hands fell to roasting and broiling and stewing and frying, and a sumptuous repast was soon set forth. 
This is thought to be the origin of those civic feasts with which, to the present day, all our public aft'airs are celebrated, and in which the 
oyster is ever sure to play an important part. ^ 

Dutch oysteemen of New Amsterdam. — A historical retrospect of the oyster-business in New York city 
affords many interesting facts. In 1621 it was recorded in a letter to the old country that " very large oifters" were 
so abundant at New Amsterdam, that they could not be sold. "Oysters are very plenty in many places," asserted 
the traveler Von der Donk, in ItJll. "Some of these are like the Colchester oysters, and are fit to be eaten raw; 
others are very large, wherein pearls are frequently found, but as they are of a brownish color they are not valuable. 
The price for oysters is usually from eight to ten stivers per huudred." The inference is, that every man could easily 
gather for himself all he wanted. That a few years of this sort of thing greatly enhanced their value, however, is 
shown by the fact that in 1G58, the Dutch council, in making an ordinance against the cutting of sods in and about 
the town, found it necessary also to enact a law forbidding " all persons from continuing to dig or dredge any oyster- 
shells on the East river or on the North river, between this city and the fresh water ". This " fresh water" was 
the pond which is now occupied by the leather district of the city, of which Spruce street is the center. 

The digging of shells was for the purpose of making into lime, and also for the purpose of paving the streets, 
and in the course of dredging for them great quantities of living oysters were wasted. Pearl street received its 
name because it was paved with oyster-shells, which the Dutch called "garlen", and is the only street in the city, 
Judge Daly tells me, that retains its original name, all the others having been changed by design or accident, during 
the subsequent English occupancy. 

In those early days the trading-place for oysters, as well as fish generally, was the "Strand", near the market- 
place. This was then an inlet which had been newly constructed into a graft or canal, where the sloops and canoes 
had a fairly good harbor and place to do business. This old " graft" is now the wealthy and speculative Broad 
street. At least as late as 1G75 Indians regularly brought oysters to sell at this place in their canoes. 

A little later, iu 1(J71, Arnoldus Moutauus speaks of " oysters, some a foot long, containing pearls, but few of 
a brown color". 

In 1079-'SO, Jaspar Dankers and Peter Slyter made a visit to the colony, and wrote an elaborate account of it, 
under the title: Journal of a Voyage to Xew York. This has been reinxblished by the Long Island Historical 
Society, and contains a desciiption which I should be sorry to omit in this connection, so vivid and warm is the sense 
of homely hospitalitj' it conveys. The passage to be quoted is the ensuing, and refers to their first landing in the 
country : 

We proceeded on to Gouanes [Gowanus, now in Brooklyn], a place so-called, where we arrived in the evening at one of the best 
friends of Gerritt, named Symon » • » . We found a good fire, half way up the chimney, of clear oak and hickory, of which they made 
not the least scruple of burning jirofusely. We let it penetrate us thoroughly. There had been already thrown upon it, to be roasted, a 
pail full of Gouanes oysters, which are the best in the country. They arc fully as good as those of England, and better than those we eat 
at Falmouth. I had to try some of them raw. They are large and full, some of them not less than a foot long, and they grow sometimes 
ten, twelve, and sixteen together, and are then like a piece of rock. Others are young and small. In couscfjuenre of the great quantities 
of them, everybody keeps the shells for the purpose of burning them iuto lime. They pickle the oysters in small casks and send them to 
Barbadoes and the other islands. 

This ^A-ill recall the .similar statement, in 1689, that ])ickled oysters were an established article of export from 
Boston to the West Indies. A few years later we find Peter Kalm writing out a full account of this trade, quoted 
further on. 


Early laws. — The law of 1715, quoted above, was the first legal enactment desifrned to protect the oyster-beds 
of the harbor, after the Dutch ordinance of 1G58, heretofore quoted. It was instigated by the common people of 
the city, to whom these moUusks afforded a very important means of subsistence, both for themselves and as an 
article of sale to the well-to-do, for the classing of oysters among luxuries was the device of a far later day. The 
law of 1715 was limited, in its effect, to five years. For ten years after freedom, which amounted to license, was 
had for New Yorkers, and then came the protective law of 1730. In the colonial documents there is found a note 
under the record of this law, which explains its necessity, as follows : 

There was an act of this kind formerly past in this province, during the continuance whereof the Oysters encreased to that degree 
that the City of New York was constantly supplyed in the pioper season at easie rates, but since the expiration of it, the people heing under 
no restraint, the Banks are almost destroyed. To preserve what is left, and to procure an increase is the design of this Act, which will he 
greatly to the advantage of this City, if it he duely observed. 

That the theory of this preaml)le, if such it was, was not wrong, is shown by the testimony of Kalm, who wrote 
in 1748. Eeferring to the great quantities of fish in New York harbor, Kalm says : 

Nor ought our vast plenty of Oysters to pass without particular Observation. In their Quality they are exceeded by those of no Country 
■whatsoever. People of all Ranks amongst us in geueral prefer them to any other Kind of Food. Nor is any Thing wanting save a little 
of the filings of copper to render them equally relishing (!ven to an English Palate, with the best from Col'-hciter. They continue good Eight 
Months in the Year, and are for two Months longer the daily Food of our Poor. Their Beds are .nth u view of the Towu, and I am 
informed that an Oystermau industriously employed may clear Eight or Ten shillings a Day. Some Geutlemen, a few Years ago, were at 
the pains of computing the Value of the Sliellfish to our Pro\-ince in general. The Estimate was made with Judgment and Accuracy, and 
their Computation amounted to Ten Thousand Pounds per Annum. Their Increase and Consumptiou are since very much enhanced, and 
thus also their additional Value in Proportion. I confess it has often given me great Pleasure to reflect how many of my poor countrymen 
are comfortably supported by this Article, who without it could scarcely subsist, and for that Reason beg to be excused for the length of 
this Reflection on so humble a subject, tho' it might justly be urged, to the honour of our Oysters, that considered in another View they 
are serviceable both to our King and Country. 

Kalm on abundance of oysters in 1748.— In another place Kalm returns to the snbiect in a way for which 
we ought to be grateful, for information upon our theme is rarely to be had from the early writers. He says : 

About New York they find innumerable quantities of excellent oyfters, and there are few places which have oyfters of fuch an 
exquiiite tafte, and of fo great a fize: they are pickled and fent to the West Indies and other places; which is done in the following 
manner : As soon as the oyfters are caught, their fhells are opened and the fifh wafhed clean ; fome water is then poured into a pot, the 
oyfters are put into it, and they muft boil for a while ; the pot is then taken off from the fire again, the oyfters taken out and put upon a 
difh, till they are fomewhat dry; then you t.ake fome mace, allfpice, black pepper and as ranch vinegar as you think is fufticient to give a 
sourifh tafte. All this is mixed with half the liquor in which the oyfters were boiled, and put over the fire again. While you boil it, 
great care is to be taken in fcummiug oil' the thick fcum ; at laft the whole pickle is poured into a glafs oi earthen vessclf, the oyfters 
are put to it, and the veffel is well ftopped to keep out the air. In this manner oyfters will keep for years together, and may be sent to the 
moft diftant parts of the world. 

The merchants here buy up great quantities of oyfters about this time, pickle them in the above-mentioned manner, .and fend them 
to the We/t Indies: by which they frequently make a profit: for the oyfters, which coft them five fhillings of their currency, 
they commonly fell for a piftole, or about fix times as much as they gave for them ; and foraetimes they get even more : the oyfters which 
are thus pickled have a very fine flavor. The following is another way of preserving oyfters : they are taken out of the shells, fried with 
butter, put into a glafs or earthen vefsel with the melted butter over them, fo that they are quite covered with it, and no air can get to 
them. Oyfters prepared in this manner have likevrife an agreeable taste, and are exported to the Weft Indies, and other parts. 

Oysters are here reckoned very wholefome ; some people affured us, that they had not felt the lealt inconvenience after eating a 
confiderable quantity of them. It is likewife a common rule here, that oyfters are beft in thofe months which have an »■ in their name, 
fuch as September, October, etc. ; but that they are not fo good in other mouths ; however, there are poor people, who live all the year long 
upon nothing but oyfters with bread. 

The fea near New York, affords annually the greateft quantity of oyfters. They are found chiefly in a muddy ground, where they lie 
in the flime, and .are not fo frequent in a fandy bottom : a rocky and a ftony bottom is fcldom found here. The oyfter-fhells arc gathered 
in great heaps, and burnt into lime, which Ijy fome people is made ufe of in building houfes, but is not reckoned fo good as that made of 
limeftone. On our journey to New York, we faw high heaps of oyfter-fhells near the farm-houfes, upon tho fea fhore ; and about New York 
•we obferved the people had carried them upon the fields, which were fown with wheat. However, they were entire and not ernfhed. 

The Indians, who inhabited the coaft before the arrival of the Europeans, have made oyfters and other fhell fifh their chief food ; and 
at prefent, whenever they come to fait water, where oyfters are to be got, they are very active in catching them, and fell them in great 
quantities to other Indians, who live higher up the country: for this reafbu you fee immenfe numbers of oyfter and mufcle fliells jiiled up 
near fuch places, where you are certain that the Indians formerly built their huts. This circumftance ought to make us cautious in 
maintaining, that in all places on the fea fhore, or higher up in the country, where fuch heaps of fhells are to be met with, the latter 
have lain there ever fiuce the time that thofe places were overflowed by the fea. 

Oysters in New York in 1755-'68.— An intelligent writer gives a good article on fish and oysters, which 
is found in TJie Independent Reflector, November 22, 1753, a few years after Kalm : 

The' we abound in no one kind of fish sufficient for a staple, yet such is our hiippiness in this article, that not one of the colonies 
affords a fish-market of such a plentiful variety as ours. Boston has none but sea-fish, and of those Philadelphia is entirely destitute, 
being only furnished with the fish of a fresh-water river. New York is sufficiently supplied with both sorts. Nor ought our vast plenty 
of oysters to pass without particular observation; in their (piality, etc. 

Oysters were still .sold from vessels at Broad street, though the ancient canal was gone, up nearly if not quite 
to Eevolutionary days, and perhaps later. In 1703 I find they are given as worth two shillings a bushel in New York, 
clams at the same time selling for ninepeuce per hundred. The favorites were "Blue Points'' and "Sounds." The 


most of them were eaten raw. A "stew" was an expensive Inxnry then, and the fancy styles of cooking in vogue 
now hardly heard of. Most of the venders were colored men ; and the only oyster eatinghonses, little cellars nnder 
the sidewalk, stalls in the markets— particularly the old Catherine market— or a little movable stand on a wharf. 

A PICTUKE BY Washington Irving. — Washington Irving, in his Knkl<erhocl;er''s Eistory, describing a scene 
in New York harbor in 1804, says that in the universal repose of the afternoon "the fleet of canoes at anchor 
between Gibbet island and Communipaw slumbered on their rakes, and siifl'ered the innocent oysters to lie for a 
while unmolested in the soft mud of their native banks". 

New York market in 1S2.j-'30 and 1845.— Even as late as 1825-'30 the whole city supplied only custom 
enough for one wholesale establishment, according to the information kindly given me by Mr. Thomas DeVoe, whose 
historical knowledge in respect to New York city is widely known. Benjamin Story at that time kept a provision 
store at No. G4 Barclay street, and in the fall used to stow away in his cellar from two to five hundred bushels of 
oysters, which he would sell during the winter to the few eating-stands in Washington market or to grocers. Mr. 
DeVoe told me that the report at that time was, that Story fed his stock and so kept them alive; but how often, or 
with what pabulum, he could not say. Prices at that time, DeVoe remembered, were about two shillings and 
sixpence to three shillings (30 to 37 cents) a bushel on the boats which came to the city wharves; but Story sold 
his at from $1 to $1 25 a hundred in bad weather, when boats could not bring any. 

In Watson's Annals, 1845, I flud the following paragraph : 

Mr. Brower » » * renieinbere<l well when abmidauce of the largest Blue Point oysters could bo bought opened to your hand 
for 2«. a hundred, such as would now [184G] briug three or four dollars. 

New York markets in 1853.— In the spring of 1853 there appeared in the New Torlc Herald a series of 
articles on this trade in the metropolis, which bore the impress of accuracy to a greater degree than is usual in such 
communications. It asserted that then the oyster-trade might be called only thirty years old, yet that there were 
a thousand vessels, of from 45 to 200 tons, engaged in winter in supplying the dealers in Oliver slip and other 
depots with Virginia oysters. The value of these vessels, on an average, was $3,000 each. This statement must, 
of course, have included all bringing southern oysters to any portion of New York bay, and, at best, seems 
exaggerated. "The crew," continues the account of these vessels, "is composed generally of four hands and the 
cook, and the monthly wages given to each person varies from .$12 to $30 * * *. Unlike the fishermen of 
Fulton market, they do not own shares in the boats upon which they are employed." 

The account continues : 

The amount received for Virginia oysters, sold by the dealers in Oliver slip alone, is estimated at $250,000 a year. This, however, is 
not more than one-third of the quantity disposed of in the vicinity of Catherine market ; for the space in the slip is so limited that the 
Ijusiuess of the dealers is greatly retarded and cramped. In consequence of this the principal supply is furnished direct from the boats to 
the retail -dealers throughout the city. About |300,000 worth of all kinds of Virginia oysters are sold by the boats, which, added to the 
sales of the dealers, make a total of three-quarters of a million of dollars. This is an immense amount of money, but it is not more than 
one-eighth part of the value of all the oysters sold during the year in this city.* 

During the mouths of December, January, February, and March about .§500,000 worth are sold from the boats at Coenties slip. There 
are no scows or oyster-stands at this place, on account of the transient character of the trade there, and the dealers are consequently obliged 
to sell them off the boats. There are some days when from 20 to 30 vessels are in dock together, and » * * the wharf is thronged with 
wagons waiting to receive their loads, while the hands on the boats are straining every nerve to supply the incessant demands of 
customers. The business of the day couimences about six o'clock in the morning, and continues until four in the afternoon. 

Of East river oysters alone about §500,000 worth is sold during the year in Oliver slip. The supply comes from Bridgeport, Norwalk, 
Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, Sawpits, City island, and a few other places along the western shore : and from Northport, Oyster li.ay, 
Lloyd's harbor, Huntingdon, Cold Spring, and Cow bay on the southern side. The largest proportion come from City island, where there 
are extensive artificial and natural beds, which furnish some of the best oysters obtained in the East river. 

The reporter then mentions that of the 100 boats employed in carrying East river oysters to Oliver slip in 
1853, 25 belonged to City island, where 100 families were supported by this industry. "The whole amount of 
l)roperty invested in the oyster-trade with this island," he states, "including the boats of theoystermen and of the 
dealers, the value of the beds, etc., is estimated at $1,000,000. And this is not more than one-third of the whole 
amount invested in the entire trade of the East river." 

The same writer mentioned that the annual sales of a single dealer in East river stock amounted in 1852 to 
$100,000; and complained that the conveniences ottered by the city to the business at Oliver slip was very 
inadequate, although a fee of $75 a year was paid as scow- wharfage. He enumerated nine scows there then, valued 
at about $4,000, total. These scows were 30 by 12 feet in dimensions, and would hold from 1,100 to 1,500 bushels 
each. Out of these scows, ho says, is sold yearly about $500,000 worth of oysters, exclusive of the amount bought 
from boats direct, which dealers estimate at $1,000,000. "This estimate is derived from a calculation of the 
number of boats arriving during each year, and their capacity." 

At Washiugton market, according to the same chronicle, there were at this time twelve scows, having a total 
value of about $15,000. They had not even the scanty wharf accommodations vouchsafed at Oliver slip, but lay 
exposed so that they were knocked about by every high wind with great force, and damage was done which now 

'Here, again, I should say the estimate was large— two or three times too high, at least. — E. I. 


and then amounted to total wreck, and always caused bitter complaints against the city. The total sales in and 
about "Washington market were estimated at $3,000,000 annually, which, again, I must beg the reader to regard as 
an overestimate. 

"It is only within the last five or six years," says this writer, "that the dealers commenced shipjjiug in the 
shell, and at present a most extensive trade is carried on with Cincinnati, St. Louis, and several other western 
cities. Before this they were sent in kegs hermetically sealed * * * as far as California * * ». Pickled 
oysters are sent to every i^art of the United States by our dealers, and immeuse quantities are bought for shipment 
by vessels." 

The recapitulation with which these newspaper reports closed is annexed : 

Number of boats of all sizes fSO to 250 tons) in the Virginia oyster-trade 1, (100 

111 the East and North river trade 200 

In the Shrewsbury trade 20 

In the Blue Point and sound trade 100 

In the York bay trade 200 

Total I,n20 

Sales of Virginia oysters, including those planted in Prince's bay $3, 000, 000 

East and North river oysters 1,500, 000 

Slirewsbury oysters 200, 000 

Blue Point and Sound oysters 200,000 

York bay oysters 300,000 

Total sales 5,200,000 

Oyster panics in 1839 and 1855. — In 1839 a law was passed prohibiting the sale of oysters in New York 
from May 1 to September 1. This law became a dead letter, but was about to be enforced by Mayor Henry Wood 
in 1855, when the oystermeu, alarmed, urged its modification, saying that when the law was framed little or no 
transplanting was done; that transplanted oysters (from Virginia) did not spawn, and therefore were not harmful, 
even if all milky oysters were to be regarded so, the correctness of which view several dealers denied with an 
intelligence in advance of their hearers. The discussion waxed warm, and in the spring of 1850 the board of 
health had hearings before them upon the matter, in which certain interesting facts came out. It was stated that 
there were nearly 800 persons iu New York (no doubt including the whole tributary neighborhood) who at that 
time imported oysters from Virginia, employing 200 vessels — a number much nearer the truth than the "1,000 
vessels" of the HeraWs story. All the summer oysters sold in the city were southern; all agreed they were 
perfectly healthy. The counsel for the oystermeu read a statement, in which he asserted that iu Clinton market 
alone oysters were sold as follows: 1853, $885,000; 1851, $914,000. "Add other markets, and the trade involved 
a yearly capital of over $5,000,000 iu New York city." 

DeVoe's Market Assistant contains the ensuing account of the notorious " oyster riots ": 

An unusual excitement, or rather an "oyster panic", occurred in New York city in October, 1855, which prevailed against the use of 
oysters as an article of food for several weeks. Several highly-esteemed citizens died very suddenly by cholera, which it was thought was 
occasioned by eating diseased oysters. Various causes were assigned for their poisonous quality; some attributed it to drought ; others, 
that the oysters had been taken up during their spawning-time, and thus become diseased. The same complaint and fatal iustauces 
existed at Baltimore, Alexandria, Georgetown, and other places. 

Dr. James R. Chilton, a noted chemist, after makiug a chemical examination of them, says : "It is not an unusual circumstance that 
oysters and other shellfish, when eaten after having been kept long during the warm season, will produce serious illness resembling 
cholera; but no such ill-effects would be likely to arise when they are received fresh from our waters." 

Several years ago oysters were seldom seen for sale in their general spawning-season ; it was not only against the law, as it Is now 
[1863], but the people would not buy or have them iu their possession. An ordinance was passed in 1839 which reads as follows : " No 
person shall bring into the city of New York, or have in his or her possession, iu the said city, any oysters, between the first day of May 
and the first day of September, in any year, under penalty of $5 for any quantity not exceeding one hundred, and the further penalty of $t2 
for every hundred." 

Fulton and Catherine markets in 1855. — This discussion brought out many special articles in the daily 
press of the city, which are now of historical interest and large credibility. The Tribune of June 24, 1855, contained 
the following, in resi^ect to Catherine market: 

Nest to the meat-trade, a more extensive business is done in oysters and clams than iu any other article of food In the market. Tlie 
stands, of which there are five, are situated at the southerly side of the street, occiqiying the entire front of the fish-market. Eacli dealer 
Bells on an average about .filOO worth of all kinds every d.ay, making a total of |i:i,000 a week. The fish are generally sold out of the shell, 
and a large proportion are cooked. 

The account concludes with a table crediting Catherine market with yearly sales of oysters and clams of 
$150,000 out of a total meat, fish, and produce business of $524,000. Another account in the Herald says $140,000 
worth of moUusks were sold there iu one year, four-fifths of which are oysters. 


In November, 1855, the Tribune "wrote np" Fulton market, and described eight stands devoted to the sale of 
shellfish, the total annual sales of which aggregated $200,000, of which about one-sixth was for clams, etc. 

"The trade in oysters," said this account, "is retail, and not more than one-tenth are sold in the shell. Some 
shipments are made to Liverpool during the winter-seasou by the Cuuard steamers ; but the quantity disposed of 
in this way is very limited, not exceeding eight barrels a mouth. There is only one company which exports oysters, 
and they sent more than $20,000 worth last year to California. The same company pickled in one week 15,000. 
As the oysters are not sold in the shell, a large luiinber of persons are employed in oi)ening them. This is a business 
by itself, and the persons engaged in it are paid at the rate of about 50 cents a thousand. Some, who are well practiced 
in the art, can open .'i.OOO in one day, but 2,500 is considered a good day's work. Nearly all the oysters sold in this 
market are obtained at Oliver slip, near Catherine market, which is the principal rendezvous of the oyster-boats. 
No adequate conception can, however, be formed of the extent of the oyster-trade in this city from the business 
done in the markets, for immense quantities are bought from the boats without ever passing through the hands of 
the dealers." 

The number of retailers in the city, at this time, was placed at 5,000, all of whom would lose a large measure of 
support if a prohibition of oyster-selling during the summer months were enforced. There was one feature, however, 
of the trade heartily condemned, but unfortunately not extirpated. I refer to the ruffians who, in the most dirty 
way, peddle oysters from an old wagon at one cent each. Their furniture consists of stentorian lungs, from which the 
most ear-splitting cries disturb the peace of every street and the temper of all the denizens, a pail of nastj' water, a 
soda-water bottle of vinegar and another of a ferocious compound called pepper-sauce, and a box of salt, pepper, and 
street-dust mixed. Buying and selling onjy the cheapest oysters in the dirtiest way, they offer many spoiled ones — 
very likely to be productive of disease, and otherwise engender and minister to ill-health. 

Oyster-booths. — Only a grade higher are the fixed street stands for opening oysters to eat, of which a 
clever description appeared some years ago in the New York Evening Telegram, in the following language : 

All along the [East] river front are places, rude huts, paralytic shanties, where oysters aro sold at a i^enny apiece. You can stand 
on the outside and tish them up from the shells that are passed through the window to a ledge, or you can go in and have a 10-cent stew 
behind the red-hot stove. A man with a checked jumper on attends you and juggles the porter bottles containing catsup iu so artistic a 
manner, that the thought of his being a base-ball player minus a position, will not be "put out". The frequenters of these al fresco 
oyster-houses are longshoremen, truckmen, stevedores, sailors, and others of that ilk, and a very large bowl of oyster soup, not stew, can 
be obtained for 5 cents. 

Markets in 1861. — It will be observed that in all these accounts the city markets are mentioned as the 
wholesale depots for shellfish. It is only within the last twenty years that Broome street and West Tenth have 
become the headquarters of oyster-dealings. When Lieutenant De Broca was here in 18G1, he found that the " two 
most important markets for the wholesale trade in these mollusks <ire Catherine market, on the East river, and 
another at the foot of Spring street, on the Hudson river. As to the retail sales, they are made in all the markets 
of the city indiscriminately, in the oyster-houses, and in markets intended especially for the sale of fish". Then 
follows a description of the "floating-houses, constructed on rafts", which were the same then as now. Eleven 
at Catherine market and twenty-three on the opposite side of the river are enumerated. He continues : 

These floating-houses possess one great advantage, which is, that the oysters can be preserved iu them alive for several days during 
the winter-season, however low the temperature may be ; and also in summer during the greatest heat, since the part under water is 
always cool. The oysters, or clams, placed iu baskets containing about a bushel, are stored iu the cellar and attic of the oyster-boat. In 
the room are placed only specimens of the dilferent qualities for sale, from which samples purchasers make their choice. Here, too, all 
the packing which the necessities of the trade require is done. 

Although there are always a great many oysters in these establishments, they never remain more than a few days, and arrangements 
are made with the plantations for constant and supplies. The number of boats of all kinds emiiloyed by the merchants an<l the 
planters of the bay, including those engaged in fishing for the oysters and clams, is estimated at 15,000. 

Prices in the past. — Prices of oysters in New York in the past, at least for half a century, do not seem to 
have greatly differed from those at present, save that then, as now, periods of excessive storm or other unfortunate 
contingency would produce a momentary scarcity, which would cause a sudden and temporary increase in price. 
Such a "famine" occurred in January, 1857. Quotations from files of new.spapers, courteously oi)ened tome by 
Thomas F. DeVoe, since 18.50, show that for all sorts and grades of oysters in general sale the price at wholesale 
ran from 35 cents (rarely so low) to $2 per hundred. The large majority of quotations gave "cullens" at 35 to 40 
cents; "boxes" at 62J cents to .$1, and "extras" at $1 25 to $2. An inferior grade to all, sometimes sold as 
"bushels", brought 50 cents. More recently (1870) the uewspai)er market reports give the following prices for 
oysters in Fulton and Washington markets in midwinter: 

Per 100. 

Saddle-Rocks |1 75 to $3 CO 

East Rivers 1 00 to 2 00 

Blue Points 1 00 to 1 50 

Prince's Bays 1 00 to 1 75 1 00 to 1 75 

These were all, however, grades above the average quality sold. 


Demand and sxjpply, past and present. — The history of the great city's progress in arailing itself of 
this important article of food has thus been sketched. From being the common food of the poor man, so plenteous 
and vulgar that no feast ever saw its name upon the menu, the oyster became only a luxury for the well-to-do, 
and the prime feature of holiday banquets. Eecovering from the scarcity which had brought this change about, by 
means of the artificial cultivation of immense quantities, oysters a second time have become abundant as an article 
of food, enjoyed alike by rich and poor. Those who live in the interior or abroad can hardly appreciate how 
extensive is the demand and supply in the coast cities. "Oysters pickled, stewed, baked, roasted, fried, and 
scalloped; oysters made into soups, patties, and puddings; oysters with condiments and without condiments; 
oysters for breakfast, dinner, and supper; oysters without stint or limit, fresh as the pure air, and almost as 
abundant, are daily offered to the palates of the Manhattanese, and appreciated with aU the gratitude which such a 
bounty of nature ought to inspire." 


Location of the oyster-business. — The oyster-business of the city of New York, as at present conducted, 
is confined almost exclusively to two localities, the trades of which are to a certain extent distinct. One of these 
centers is at the foot of Broome street, East river, and the other at the foot of West Tenth street. North liver, 
nearly opposite. The method of business at each is substantially the same, the difference consisting in the character 
of the oysters handled. In addition to this, a few firms are engaged at wholesale in Fulton market, and three firms 
near Washington market imi)ort oysters, opened, from the south. This includes all of the original wholesale and 
shipping business in the city — and the statistics of it, though represemted by large figures, and though it took 
much time to obtain them, are not comijlicated. 

Scows AND barges. — All of the dealers on the East and North rivers occupy floating places of business 
known as "scows", "oyster-boats", or "barges", being flat-bottomed boats, made with unusual strength and of the 
most durable materials, and which closely resemble the conventional "Noah's Ark" of the toy-shops, and the Sunday 
school ijicture-books, except that they have flat roofs. 

The size of these scows varies, but fair dimensions are these : 

Feet. Feet. 

Length of hull 75 Height of first story or deck 11 

Width 24 Height of attic 9 

Depth of hold 6 

The deep hold, well-floored, serves as a cellar, cool in summer and warm in winter; oysters will never freeze 
there when the. hatches are closed. Over the whole craft, flush with the outside, is built a house, two stories in 
height, as I have indicated. The floor of the first story is the deck of the scow. This is the general business 
apartment, and gives room for storage, the opening of oysters, and transaction of business. Above is a loft where 
are stored barrels, baskets, and machinery. In the rear, usually — sometimes in the front end — is fitted up an 
ofiice. The daily capacity of such a barge is about 700 bushels. 

These scows are securely moored, side by side, to the wharf, or rather to the water-wall of the city, and are 
reached by broad swinging platforms, which allow them to rise and fall with the tide. At the rear end, therefore, 
they can always be closely approached by the sloops and boats which bring to their owners their stock. Such a 
barge is worth from $1,500 to $4,000, and, with an annual overhauling and caulking, will last as long as a man is 
likely to need it. There are 30 of these barges, representing at present, a value of $75,000. To these barges 
at the foot of Broome street come the oysters from East river and Long Island beds ; also somewhat from Staten 
Island and Virginia, but to a small extent compared with the west-side business in these two classes. 

Character of the trade. Three sorts of trade are carried on, as follows: 1. Some dealers are also planters 
and sell their own oysters; 2. Dealers buy from planters and sell; 3. Dealers sell on commission. 

The planting of oysters by the New York dealers is almost wholly by partnership methods, and the statistics of 
the amounts they raise are credited to the totals at the poiiit where the oysters are produced. New York furnishes 
a large part of the capital which operates the beds in all parts of the neighborhood, from Kej7»ort, New Jersey, to 
Norwalk, Connecticut. It is very rare, however, that this planting is done in the capitalist's name, and it would be 
idle, and the cause of the greatest confusion, to try to ascertain to just what extent the score of oystermen in New 
York produced native oysters, apart from the share which country capital had in it. The arrangement between 
the New York man of money and his rural partner is usually this: The former iurnishes the needed money, the 
latter does all the labor, and the cost of taking up and the profits are equally divided. The reason why the 
capitalist's name does not appear, which would redound to his credit as an extensive operator, is, that the beds 
are usually in Connecticut or in New Jersey, while he is a citizen of New York, and in both those states the 
law forbids a non-inhabitant to plant oysters. The same law holds even in res])ect to towns, so that a man must 
live immediately at his beds if he intends to work them himself. But, of course, no legislation can forbid partnership 
or borrowing money, or hiring out one's services, even if the other party concerned be not a citizen of the state or 








Under this system the country partner reports to the census what amount he raised and sold, saying nothing 
about where his means came from— which is something the inquirer did not care to linow. It only remaius to aslc 
the city man the uumber of oysters that pass through his hands, without (piestion as to what part of these were 
raised out of his money— a question it would be almost, or quite, impossible for him to answer. Nor could lie 
tell what these cost him, since a part of the investment which has been made long ago, is known to have been lost, 
a part remains ungathered on the beds— always au incalculable quantity, for accident may destroy all of it— 
and the harvest comes iu by piece-meal. He caunot tell what these oysters have been worth precisely. He only 
knows, in a general way, whether his ventures in a certain place have been proQtable or not. 

A large proportion of the oysters handled by these New York fii-ras, however, are bought from planters who 
own beds on the Connecticut or Long Island shore, iu Trince's bay, Staten Island souud, or elsewhere. The owner 
may load up his sloop and bring his crop to the city to dispose of to him who will i)ay best; or the dealer may 
send out his own sloops to the producing-grounds, and with his business-card painted all over the mainsail, cruise 
about until he has bought a cargo at a satisfactory price. The more usual method, however, is to have it 
understood beforehand that certain dealers will take all the oysters certain planters can raise. Often money is 
advanced upon this uuderstandiug, or other help given, so that there is a closer business-relation than ordinary 
between the buyers and the planters — an intimacy (and confusion iu the matter of statistics) to which the 
extensive partnership system lends itself. 

The third method- of sales on commission— explains itself. It is not extensively followed, since the planters 
do not have fixith in it, and the dealers do not care to encourage it. 

Some dealers are shippers wholly, others find their whole custom iu the city and suburbs. The former require 
less men and dispose of larger packages at each order; the latter require many trucks and delivery carts, though 
most of their customers themselves come after their supplies. I believe the shipping trade is generally thought 
more desirable. 

Extent of New York otstee-trade in 1880.— The procuring of statistics of the amount of oysters handled 
in New York city was a matter of slow and painstaking inquiry. It was dilficult, to bcJgin with, to make the dealers 
understand the full purport of my inquiries, even when, as too frequently occurred on the east side, there was no surly 
indifference or active opposition to my investigations. Few of the oyster-dealers keep track of their sales, much 
less of the amount, iu bushels or by the thousand, of the stock which passes through their hands into the city retail- 
trade, or out into the country. I desired to keep the northern distinct from the southern oysters, and here began 
another difticulty, and so on. It is with au apologetic feeling, therefore, that I venture upon the publication of these 
totals, which are founded only upon careful estimates of the annual transactions at the present time of each firm. 
Round numbers had to be used everywhere, and the whole matter is au approximation. I believe, nevertheless, 
although it falls far short of all previous estimates, that it is more nearly correct than any account of the 
wholesale-trade ever ventured upon heretofore, since it is supported by inherent probability, and by comparison 
with other statistics; for example, the reported total of the oysters produced at the beds which find their market at 
New York. 

The quantities of oysters handled each year iu the city of New York, then, are approximately stated iu the 
following figures: 

Southern, in shell 1, 06.5, 000 'bushelB. 

Northern (natives), in shell 1,634,000 bushels. 

Opened, from the south 600, 000 gallons. 

By count, iu shell, at 250 to the bushel 765,000,000 

The selling value of these oysters may be estimated as — 

Of southern $800,000 

Of northern 1,500,000 

Of opened 458,700 

Total 2,758,700 

Scenes at the bakges. — The scene at the barges on both rivers, during the busy months of autumn and 
winter, is a very lively one. The sloops, very trim craft, bringing oysters to be sold, will sometimes lie a dozen deep 
opposite the barges, with plank walks across their decks from the outer ones to the shore. The captain and crew 
attend to the getting up of the cargo out of the hold and putting it into baskets, sorting it at the same time. In 
the case of East river and Staten Island OAsters, they are sold by the hundred or the thousand, as a rule, and must 
all be counted. Au expert man will count them accurately as fast as they can be carried ashore. Long Island 
stock is generally sold by the "basket", this measure holding somewhat less than a bushel; but some dealers 
compel the sloops to measure by baskets furnished them, which hold a full bushel, or a trifle over. Even then uo 
great measure is given, for care is taken not to shake the contents down. A'irgiuia oysters may be measured l)y 
the basket, but are paid for by the cargo or fraction of a cargo, except where, as in the case of Staten Island 
planters, southern oysters, having laid a few months in Prince's bay or the sound, are brought to the city to be sold. 


A newspaper account, written ten years ago, depicted the scene graphically, and it is still unchanged: 

When the wiud changes, the fleet comes up the bay, and then there is a busy scene in the neighborhootl off pier No. 54. The dork 
and its approaches are covered with cartmen, wa;j;ons and horses, stevedores, and oyster-dealers. The vessels are fastened to the vrharf 
by means of strong hawsers, and the hatches are off fore and aft. In the hold are men lilling baskets rapidly, and others stand on the 
deck, rail, and pier-string, ready to pass them to the cart being loaded. All is rush, bustle, and trade, flavored with copious dashes of 
profanity. In front of the scow-warehouses are men coniinually employed on these days, filling barrels with oysters and heading them 
up. Inside of the scows dozens of men are opening, while others can them ready for transmission by rail to Canada, country hotels, and 
restaurants. But the city trade creates the hurry visible on every side. All day long, until the cargoes, which are always bespoken, are 
landed, the work goes on, and when they are discharged the vessels are sent away immediately for more. 

Policy of the dealers in buying. — One dealer discoursed to me knowingly upon the best policy of buying, 
according to his long experience in the East river, as follows : 

I sell only superior stock, which will average, all through, from §1 to $1 50 a basket. There are three sizes, "extras, " "box," and 
" cnllen". Culleus sell for four to five dollars a thousand. Six month.s' more growth makes boxes of them, numbering about 150 to the 
basket, when they sell for seven or eight dollars. After that the growth is so slow that it requires eighteen months longer to make extras 
out of them, but they are then worth fifteen to twenty dollars a thousand ; the extras used to bring fifty dollars a thousand. This long 
waiting makes it more profitable to sell the two smaller grades, the most profit being in the best quality of box-oysters. All of the 
foregoing refers to East river "plants". In Rockaway oysters the dealer can make the most by selling them small, because the growth is 
rapid. Seed need lie there only from four to six months, whereas the same seed would have to lie on an East river bed from two to three 
years to attain the same size. Hence in Rockaway stock the dealer turns his money quickly. The prospects of business are good, because 
a scarcity of oysters is coming, which will raise the price. 

Another dealer, who sells only oysters of his own raising, writes: 

In planting natural seed-oysters (i. c, natives) in northern waters, it is necessary that they lie at least three years to attain growth 
sufficient to have them run, by count, one-third " box" and two-thirds " culls". We plant each spring and fall, and therefore make at 
least eight plantings before the iirst crop of that series is taken up. 

Oystek-careiers. — The carrying of oysters from the vessels into the barges affords employment to a distinct 
class of men, known as " carriers ". There are from 25 to 40 of these on each river. They do not work on salary, 
btit get 10 cents a thousand for the oysters carrietl, reckoning seven small and four large baskets to the thousand. 
This seems very small wages, but I was assured that they averaged from $25 to $30 a week during half the year. 
They are paid by the owners of the oysters sold. 

Opening oysters. — The opening of oysters by the trade in New York city is not systematically carried on, as at 
Providence, Fair Haven, and in the sotith, and scarcely any is done until after the holidays, all the trade previous to 
that being in the shell. I doubt if more than 100 or 1.50 men are ever emi)loyed at once in the whole city in opening 
for the wholesale-trade. All the openers are men chiefly drawn from the ranks of longshoremen, and those who in 
summer get their living as deck-liands on steamboats and by other marine occupations. The rate of pay is 10 cents 
a thousand, at which rate about $3 a day is regidarly made when work is plentiful, and even as high as $0 50 has 
been earned on a spurt. The openers are ignorant men, and, with the carriers, form a much "harder" class than 
those who are regularly employed to help about the barges, form the crews of the sloops, or do the work required 
at the [)lanting beds. The oysters opened are mainly "Virginias", but also some "natives" — mainly from Staten 
Island beds. These are kept separate, at least by the most reputable dealers, and are of various qualities and many 
prices, ranging last year from 65 cents to $1 40 per gallon. 

Pickling and packing. — Beyond the pickling of an inconsiderable quantity by various dealers, and nowhere 
in a large way, I could not learn of any " packing" of cooked oysters in New York. It has been tried more than 
once, I believe, but the comjietitiou of Baltimore and Norfolk, where the facilities of doing it cheaply are greater, 
stands against success in New York. This competition is exercised, also, in the way of offering in this market 
oysters which have been opened at Baltimore, Norfolk, Crisfield, or elsewhere in the Chesapeake district. This 
trade, and its influence upon the general business of the north, has been fully discussed in the chapter upon Boston, 
and need not be rediscusised here. 

Eeceipts of opened oysters. — There are two principal firms in New York devoted to the importing of opened 
oysters, and their combined receipts amounted to perhaps 500,000 gallons during the winter of 187!)-'S0. A large 
portion of this amount, however, was consigned through to points in New England, chiefly to the city of Boston. My 
memoranda from these dealers give an estimate of 335,000 gallons as the consumption of the city and its suburbs, 
much of which was re-exported by express to the interior towns of New York and western New England. The ))rices 
of these oysters were as follows in the spring of 1880: Standard, 55 to 05 cents; medium, 80 to !10 cents; select, $1 25. 
The proportion in which they were sold was, five gallons of the "standards" to ten of "mediums", and ten of 
"standards" to one of "selects". Perhaps, then, ati average price of 80 cents would produce a fair result in dollars, 
in estimating the value of the receipts, which would thus amount to about $268,000. Tliis trade is increasing, and 
gives better satisfaction in general in New York than in Boston, both because the stock itself seems generally of 
better quality, and the shorter distance and superior accoumiodations in transit bring the oysters here in 
better condition. The reshiprnents are very widely scattered through the country, especially northward. Occa- 
sionally, however, orders come from the distant west. In February of 1879, for extimple, G. E. Maltby & Co. filled 




an order from Prescott, Arizona, which deserves notice. A man desired some of their choice bivalves for the 
entertainment of his friends. When they got the order, and learned how mnch the expressage would cost, they 
hesitated. In answer to their telegram of inquiry, they were told to send them along. There were twelve gallons 
sent. It took them fourteen days to reach their destination. The exi)ressage came to $96 25. The telegrams cost 
some $30. The oysters reached their destination without delay, and in excellent condition. Opened oysters have 
also been sent to Great Britain, and gave good satisfaction there. Long traiiwi)ortation, without harm, has been 
made possible by various improved and patented contrivances for refrigeration, in the shape of barrels, cans,_and 
smaller packages. 

The retail oyster-trade. — An attempt to ascertain some of the statistics of the retail-trade in oysters — the 
eating-saloon business — proved very unsatisfactory. I got the names of about 250 oyster-houses, and dispatched to 
each a circular asking the kinds and amount of oysters, clams, and scallops used, number of persons employed, 
wages paid, and capital invested. Of these 250 circulars, only about one-tenth came back, and these, I believe, did 
not represent an average of the whole, since few or none of the establishments of large size reported themselves, 
and in many cases the questions seem to have been misunderstood. 

In genei-al, it may be said that in the cooking of oysters the southern kinds are used, because these are chea])est, 
a S]H'cial price being charged for a "stew" of northern oysters. For fried oysters, on the other hand, which require 
to be of larger size to make a show, the "box" size is used, and these are generally "Sound" or " East Eiver" oysters. 
Oysters sold to be eaten raw may be anything and everything of respectable size; but the old brand names, 
"Saddle-Hock," "Shrewsbury," "Sound" "Blue Point," "Keyport," etc., the popularity of which was won long ago, 
are still attached. I suppose, for example, that twenty times as many "Shrewsbury" oysters are sold every season 
in New York as are raised each year in that river. 

The largest oyster-saloons have always been in Fulton market, and have a world-wide reputation. Now they 
are so well rivaled by up-town establishments, that much of their prestige has disappeared. 

As to how many persons are concerned in the retail oyster- business of the city, only a mere guess is possible, 
since a very large proportion of them are temporarily engaged, or have their business so inextricably mixed with 
the liquor-trade, or the business of selling fish and general provisions, that it is out of the question to define it 
separately with any exactness. Twenty-five years ago, when the "oyster- riots" attracted attention to the matter, 
the number of persons supported by the restaurant-trade in oysters was estimated at 5,000. Whether it is not 
double that at this time it is imi>ossible to .say ; but I consider it safe to say that 5,000 families, at least, find their 
chief or exclusive support in selling or preparing the moUusks for immediate consumption in the metropolis and 
its closely adjacent cities. 

The wages vary immensely, depending on employer, sex, age and capacity of the employed, amount of working- 
time, kind of work, etc. Womeu receive from three to six dollars per week; boys and men from four to twenty 
dollars. A correct average is almost impossil)le, and a total approximate sunnnation of the wages paid out in the 
course of a year in the retail-trade is impossible. Of course this information might be accumulated, but the time 
allowed by the Superintendent of Census for this investigation, did not aduut of such study of the retaUtrade 
as would have been necessary in order to estimate its total values. 

The oyster-fleet or 1879. — The following is a list of vessels engaged iu the oyster-business in 1879, and 
hailing from the custom-house of New York : 

Name. Tons. 

Arrow 7.2t> 

Aiislcy Bodfll 7.13 

Ally 7.33 

Atlclaiile 1L29 

Alice 5. 74 

Alarm 5. 74 

Alonzo E. Smith 18. 98 

Amity 7. 47 

Alert ir,. «7 

Am. L. Barnes 15. 20 

Amice 7. fiO 

Army 9.13 

Antoinette 5. 11 

Baniet Jones 18.00 

lilanehe 18. 9.5 

Belle 7.90 

Banner Id. 54 

Blue Rock 111.00 

Cornelius Cole 10. 79 

Crystal Fountain 8.10 

B. B. Al^er 19.41 

Charles Wall 8.79 

9 o 


Name. Tons. 

Cupid 14. H7 

Continental 7. G8 

Catharine W. Burbank 16.83 

Celia Ward G. 37 

Carrie 7. 58 

C.vrusF. Pell 15.87 

Daniel E. Egbert 17.9G 

David Crowell 12.43 

D.Bennett 12.42 

D. Joline 13.18 

Delphinia 11.66 

Dolphin 6. 28 

Elizabeth J. Wright 19. 19 

Expres.s 7. -32 

Ella Fleecer 13.33 

E. C. Page 8.07 

Eniniogeuo 11.86 

Ella Wesley 12.41 

E. R. V. Wright 10.64 

Edith Thurber 9. 09 

Emma 7. 58 

Emily Kobbin 15. 54 

Name. Tons. 

Edgar Bai-nard 16.42 

Etta 10.69 

Elizabeth Rowe 7.13 

Euphcimia 18.39 

Enmia 5. 49 

Eliza Snedker 5.90 

Eliza Rhodes 13. 35 

Edna 7.09 

Eliza and Jane 9. 08 

First 19.89 

Fannie Scolield 7. 07 

Fawn 10.13 

Flaunt 5.39 

Fe.arNot 5.57 

Flag 7.92 

Frank Hopkins 8.73 

Favorite 8.89 

Flying Cloud 9.48 

Fannie Fern 5. 79 

Georgiana 19. 07 

George B, Wood 7. 28 

Georgiana 5. 11 



Kame. Tons. 

General Taylor 9. 84 

General Putman 11. GO 

Golden Rule 6.40 

George D. Allen 15.81 

George F. Rogers 11. 92 

George P. Putman 8. 37 

Howard Harrison 11.48 

Helena 11.90 

Henry Miller 9.52 

Harmon Sierses 12. 9G 

Harp 13.15 

Hickory Bud 9.81 

Hope 7. 93 

Harriet Elizabeth 11.06 

Henry Clay 10.02 

Hattie Jenks 10. G8 

Izaak Walton 11.85 

Isora 7.36 

Idle-wild 15.45 

Imogene 14. 39 

Imi)eria 19. 25 

James H. Larkin 10. 24 

James Campbell 8.20 

Jolin P. Evans 12.63 

Jacob A. Apply 5. 70 

John Florence 7.79 

John Manning 13. 42 

Janie Baker 6. 04 

Josephine 10.07 

James K. Polk 6.43 

J. Wood 13.70 

Joseph Francis 15.64 

James Henry 5. 22 

Jennie C. Benedict 10.05 

John Wright 13.04 

John T. Capmau 10.21 

Jennie 8.75 

Jane and Elizabeth 11. 89 

Name. Tons. 

Joshua Lerines 80. 97 

Cornelius C. Jones 20.36 

Elizabeth Aran 22. -'6 

Agnes 49. 86 

Harriet Dart 21.13 

Xame. Tons. 

Jennie McFarland 9.10 

John J. Moffott 6.20 

Kattie 16.85 

Katie Wood 12.95 

Kate Wade 10.15 

Katie 13.08 

Katy Did ; 10.00 

Le.ader 13.22 

' Lottie Elwood 14.84 

Laura Frances 7. 46 

Louisa 7.36 

Lillie 9.11 

Lewis Weakes 7.14 

Leona 9.04 

L. J. Dayton 12.07 

Little Kate 6.22 

Lydia Van Xame 12. 37 

Lizzie Pearl 6. 21 

Moonlight 11.80 

Minor 8. 35 

Millard F. Housman 11.94 

Marietta 11.04 

Minnie Van Name IG. 08 

Mary Elizabeth 13. 99 

May Flower 7. 35 

Minnie and Irwin 14. 13 

Music 7. 42 

Mermetora 9.48 

May Elizabeth 5.45 

Nellie Frank 8.66 

Nellie C. Powell 19.01 

Only Daughter 5.90 

Paragon 16.18 

Pacific 19.11 

Pride of the Wave 10.05 

Peruvian 18.9G 

Peerless 5.79 


Name. Tons. 

Harriet M. Laskey 22. 14 

Elizabeth Jones 22.44 

Christiana 39.94 

Josie Reeves 45. 35 

Sylvan Glen 21. G5 

Van Rensselear 22. 41 

Ifame. Tons. 

Plymouth Rock 11.37 

Robert H. Coles 10.33 

Syble 7. (54 

Semi)roui<a 16.74 

Sarah M. Rogers G. 03 

Samuel P. Billar 1G.59 

SarahE. MiUer 8.95 

Stella 19.22 

Sidney Dorlon 8. 32 

Teazer 14.20 

Three Brothers G.23 

Tillie 7.22 

Thomas Collins 13.50 

Thomas C. Barnes 9. 13 

TwoElises 6.47 

Trimmer 9.78 

Two Brothers 6.35 

Uucas 10.27 

Undine , 10.01 

Vesta 6.92 

Victorine 11.37 

Viola May 13.52 

Wm. H. Hoyt 10. .52 

Willie 16.66 

Willow Bark 11.30 

Walters. Lamance 16.23 

AVm. H. Shamott 5. 45 

Wm. H. Lissenden 7.16 

W. M.Negus 11.68 

Wm. Hillman 1.5.05 

Wm. H. Merseau 11. 16 

Wm. H. Phillips 10.04 

Wm. Chard 9.91 

Willard 10.85 

Water Lilly 1G.25 

Wave 1.-).17 

Well Spring 11.12 

Name. Tons. 

Captain 22.80 

Last One 20.07 

Gustavus A. Eatz 22.41 

Soj-hia Van Name 20.62 

Caroline Augusta 21. 92 

These vessels are classified as coasters, but took out a special fishing-license, in order to avoid hospital dues 
and some other inconveniences. The customs-authorities have now decided that oystering is not fishing within the 
meaning of the law, and vessels engaged in this trade no longer take out a license. Each license was good for one 
year, and cost 45 cents, thus yielding to the Kew York custom last year $82 80. Even if chartered for a single 
voyage a license was required. It is evident to me, however, that either the list is defective or vessels went without 
licenses, since I have a note of many additional schooners which ran to Virginia, among them the following: 

N.amo. Tons. 

H. W. Riice 80.40 

Jacob I. Housman 89.26 

Robert Center 68. 41 

Minnie Still 58.13 

Mary Parker 34. 32 

Amelia 71.41 

Sophia Behrmann 49. 43 

Also the .steam-j)roi)eller Minnie and Irvin. 

The jurisdiction of jSTew York extends southward to Port eTohnson, New Jersey; eastward to Patchogue, on the 
south shore of Long Island, and to Sag Harbor on the north side; and northward to Troy and Albany. In this large 
area a very much larger number of sloops than 177 are used in oyster-operations, but only so many are permitted 
or accustomed to bring cargoes of oysters to market. 

The Eueopean expoet-teade. — For many years the captains and passengers of steamers sailing from New 

Name. Tons. 

Excel 40.52 

Harry Doremus 48. 23 

Wm.H. Van Name 97.04 

David Carll 124.95 

Wm. Mazyick 7.5.62 

Wm. McGee 85.99 

Name. Tons. 

Wm. Young 67.81 

R. Mason 50.98 

Barnett Jones 92.91 

Mary Emma 74. 39 

S.E.Barnes 44.12 

Sidney Dorlon 36.03 


York to Liverpool have been accustomed to take with them a barrel or two of oysters in the shell, to be eaten on the 
voyage. Passengers did the same, and occasionally an American living in England would have them sent over to him 
as a treat. In ISGl, Lieutenant De Broca succeeded in shipping safely a large consignment, by way of England, to 
the French Acclimatization Society in Paris. With these facts as a guiding suggestion, about ten years ago Mr. 
George H. Shafier, of Fulton market, New York, requested an intelligent friend of his, who was going to England 
upon business, to try to introduce American oysters into the Euglisli market, and sent over a dozen barrels as an 
experiment. They retained their freshness, were landed in good condition, and speedily sold. The agent telegraphed 
Mr. Shaft'er to forward a larger consignment, which also was sold advantageously, and a regular trade was 
established. Jlr. Shaffer, however, enjoyed a monopoly of it, and the large profits, which at first accrued, only a 
short time, for his competitors were wide awake, and also began shipping to Europe, so that almost at a bound the 
exportation of oysters reached its full strength as a profitable business — that is, about as many were sent as there 
arc now — all the foreign markets will bear. 

The kind of oyster required for export is such as has not found favor in this country, where the " Saddle-Eock" 
and " Shrewsbury " are lauded above all others. The native Europenu bivalve is small, rarely exceeding the size of 
a silver dollar, and is more popular than the American oyster. The Euglish, with whom most of our trade is 
conducted, do not consider anything larger good to eat, and therefore we were obliged to accommodate this taste 
or prejudice, if we wanted to find ready sale. The oysters sent abroad, then^fore, are all single (since they are to 
be eaten on the half-shell, and not cooked), small, and round ; they are selected from the J' cuUeus" or smallest of the 
thi-ee classes into which our oysters are usually assorted, and have received the trade appellation of " London 
stock ". 

It is a much more fortunate thing for us that the foreign taste is for small oysters than for large ones, since, 
hitherto, there has been a slow market and cheap price for cull ens, which now find a ready sale, if clean and of 
good shape. It enables a man to turn his money quickly by selling his stock before it has lain more than a year 
in the water, and also to avoid the ever-present hazard of total loss by some storm or other of the many accidents 
to which oyster-beds are always subject. On the other hand, I have heard many persons complain, with some justice, 
that the export-business had been decidedly harmful to the general interests of the oyster-trade, because it took 
away from the beds great quantities of young, which had not yet had time to spawn, as they would do if allowed 
to remain enough longer to make them of suflicient size for the home trade. This was cutting off not only the 
present, but the future of the oyster-beds which supplied Loudou stock ; and, as the harm to one bed was indirectly 
harm to all its neighbors, the general good of the planters was imperiled. 

While this argument, which may be condensed into the ancient simile of killing the goose that lays the golden 
egg, is perhaps good for limited areas drawn upon with extraordinarj- persistence for the foreign market (Blue Point, 
for exami)le), I do uot consider that in general it overbalances the greater benefits derived. ISTor do I apprehend, after 
a careful examination of the matter, that the European demand — even though doubled — is likely to overtax and 
ruin any American oyster-beds which are properly watched and scientifically operated. 

Because the oysters, native and cultivated, which are grown at the eastern end of the Great South bay, on 
the south shore of Long Island, best fulfilled the conditions, they were the first to be exported to England, and 
Lave most largely, perhaps, entered into the trade. They are known both at home and abroad as "Blue 
Points", and acquired a reputation iu England superior to all others, up to the season of 1879, when there was a 
falling ofl' iu their quality and a consequent loss of esteem. 

Besides the "Blue Points", great quantities of oysters from the East river (particularly Eowayton, Korwalk, and 
Bridgeport), have been shipped, chiefly through J. & J. Ellsworth; a less number from Eockaway and Fire island; 
and large (juantities from Staten Island waters, under the brand of "Sounds". These last became the favorites 
abroad during the past season, the "East Eivers" coming second, and the unfortunate "Blue Points" third; and, 
inasmuch as they cost less than either of the other brands, money was made upon them liberally, while no one 
who forwarded "Blue Points" received much if any profit, and many shippers lost money. 

The Loudon stock having been picked out by the planter, is purchased by the shipper on the ground, where 
he sends his boats to buy daily, or keeps a permanent agent and packer. He culls it a second time, discarding 
about one fourth, so that it is estimated that four bushels of oysters are caught for every barrel exported, since 
the biirrels (second-hand tlour barrels) hold scantily three bushels. The useless residue is not wasted, but thrown 
back upon the packer's own bed to grow farther. The number of oysters in a barrel varies from twelve hundred 
to two thousand ; the more there are the better the English retail-buyer likes it, since he sells them by count. 
This has had tlie effect of a steady reduction in tlie size of the oysters sent, until now much smaller stock is sent 
than at first, and more groiuid is given the grumblers than ever lor their complaints against this line of business; 
but the limit has probably been i-eached in this direction. 

In packing the oysters they are placed as snugly iu the barrel as possible, and well shaken down. Attention 
is paid, also, to placing the oyster with the deep shell down, so that the liquor sliall not so readily escape. Some 
kind-hearted persons were greatly distressed, a few years ago, at the supposed sufiering which the mollusks 


underwent in their close quarters and long: seclusion from the world while on the passage ; they loudly demanded that 
holes should be left in each barrel and the contents deluged with fresh water daily, and that a plentiful supply of 
bran should be mixed with them to serve as food during the trip ! This was au astonishing example of Berghism 
run wild, and did more credit to the hearts than the heads of the philanthropists, who were so concerned in the 
welfare of their bivalvular brethren. 

The length of a voyage to Europe in cold weather is no feat worth mentioning to a well-constituted oyster. 
In Prince Edward island I found it to be the common practice for citizens to purchase fifteen or twenty bushels 
of oysters, pile them in their cellars between layers of sea weed, and use them gradually all winter, finding the last 
ones alive and well in the spring. This used to be the universal custom iu New York before restaurants came in 
fashion. Southern oysters en route from Chesapeake bay to Boston and Portland are frequently a mouth out of 
water, yet do not suffer, and grow well enough when returned to the water, though it is so different a latitude. 
Stock is frequently kept several weeks iu the holds of the "arks" in New York, or in the cellars of wholesale 
depots, waiting for profitable sale. One gentleman assured me that he kept a quantity of "Blue Points" 107 days in 
his cellar, losing but a few of them, and these are not generally considered so hardy as some other sorts — those 
from the East river, for instance. The hardiness of the " Sounds" is well shown in the article ujjon the oyster-beds 
of New York bay, in relating the old custom of peddling them up the Hudson river iu the fall. 

Packed so as to prevent injurious jarring, and stowed in the extreme forward part of the vessel, where they 
keep cool — the score or so of barrels of oysters smashed when the Arizona collided with au iceberg, found it really 
chilly! — the mollusks therefore find it a pleasant exiierience rather than a cruel hardship to cross the Atlantic. 
No time is lost in getting the oysters, when packed, into the steamer, and many are taken in sloops directly from 
the producing jjoints to the steamer's wharf, and thus escape the bother and expense of a second or third handling 
in New York. 

Some American firms' have regular agents abroad who care for and dispose of the oysters sent to them. In 
other cases they are consigned by the shippers to commission merchants on the other side. Liverpool has been the 
great receiving point for Great Britain, because it was the nearest jiort. It was found that the extra time required, 
and the port charges on cargoes sent direct to London by steajner, more than overbalanced the slight saving 
effected in freight over those forwarded by rail from Liverpool. The amount of oysters sent each week, though 
not large, has sometimes been more than could be disposed of before the next shipment arrived. To provide 
against loss in this contingency, the largest dealers own spaces of sea-bottom, where the surplusage is thrown 
overboard to keep in good condition and drawn upon as required. Some thousands of barrels are sent anuuallj', 
which are intended to lie and grow there from one to three years. American oysters laid down thus iu foreign 
waters have never been known to spawn, so far as I could learn, but the conditions have never been fixvorable ; 
and no experiment, that I am aware of, has been tried, to ascertain whether seed-oysters from the United States, 
properly planted, would not grow into good health, emit spawn, and establish their race upon the European coasts. 
I see no reason why such an experiment should uot prove entirely successful. It is said that the English beds are 
becomiug so depopulated as practically to have become worthless. The eighth edition of the Encijclopccdia 
Britannica, speaking briefly of oysters (vol. xv, p. 348), under "MoUusca", says that only about 30,000 bushels of 
"natives", or oysters from artificial beds, and about 100,000 bushels of "sea-oysters", are annually sent to the 
Loiulon market. This seems extremely small, but the English i)eople have not yet learned to regard the bivalves 
as anything more than a luxuiy, and heretofore they have always been beyond the purses of any but the wealthy. 
The demand, however, is increasing through the cheaj)ening of this excellent food, and the acquired habit of eating 
and enjoying it. Nevertheless, it is easy to overstock the European market, and no little harm has happeued to 
consignments, with dead loss to the owners, through being delayed too long before being sold, in consequence of an 
oversupply. This hapi^ened more frequently some years ago than it now does. 

One large shipper gave it to me as his belief, that London could not use more than 500 barrels a week, at the 
present time, nor the whole United Kingdom consume more thau 3,000 barrels. Occasionally this year the market 
has been so crowded that sales at 5 shillings a barrel have been made, to avoid total loss. On the other hand, it is 
not always easy to obtain supplies in New York for the European trade, in midwinter, with necessary promptness, 
iu which event those planters who are able to run into New York good stock realize large profits, and the agents 
in Europe make handsome returns to their principals. The winter of ]879-'80 was so mild aud "open" a one that 
this difficulty was not experienced, but previously it has been an important element in the trade. 

The prices received for American oysters sent abroad have been very various, ranging the past year from 5 to 
40 shillings a barrel. Leaving out the various deductions necessary, it is considered fair to estimate ^.j to be the 
average cash returned to this country for each barrel. At this rate the stated total of 63,300 barrels (about 175,000 
bushels) would net the United States no less thau $310,500 in gold, an amount which would by no other means be 
brought into our pockets, and wliich enriches the country by so much, since the value exchanged for it does not, 
in any degree, impoverish the country, but is a product of labor which would not otherwise be employed, and the 
disposal of a product not otherwise to be used. 



Compariuji- tbis with the exi)ortatious in previous years, it will be seen that there is no loss, hut a 
A statement of the value of oysters exported from the United States from 1804 to 1879, inclusive, reads 

1864 $85,089 

1865 122,109 

1866 200,409 

1867 181,271 

1868 121,946 

1869 89,266 

1870 134,804 

1871 168,122 




rapid gain, 
as follows : 


The different customs-districts from which these exportations were, are as follows : 

Alaska $7 

Baltimore 44,871 

Bath, Me 9 

Boston 2,278 

Brazos tie Santiago 265 

Buffalo, N. Y 41,289 

Cape Viueeufc, N. Y 4,210 

Castice, Me 6 

Champlain, N. Y 11,680 

Chicago, III 74 

Corpus Christi, Tex 4 

Detroit , 1,746 

Duluth 62 

Genesee, N. Y 573 

Minnesota 5, 065 

New Orleans $103 

New York *302,732 

Oswegatchie, N. Y 12, 278 

Paso del Norte, Tex 

Passamaquodd y, Me 


Portland and Falmouth, Me , 

Puget Sound, Wash 

Saluria, Tex 

San Francisco, Cal 

Saint John, Fla 






1, 073 




4, 556 

453, 097 

Of these almost exactly one-quarter were sent to Canada, leaving about $300,000 worth to be sent to Europe, 
and, ill trifling quantity, to Mexico and the East Indies. Dismissing these latter, it is interesting to inqnii'e 
somewhat into the statistics of our exportations to Great Britain and the Continent. The number of shipments iu 
1879, between November 1 and May 1, were: 

To Liverpool 27 

To Hamburg 18 

To Bremen 7 

To London 11 

To Havre... 
To Glasgow. 
To Bristol... 
To Cardiff.. 

This gives an average shipment to Great Britain of 2,101.5 barrels; to Germany aud France of 80 barrels. The 
date of the largest shipment was December 0, 3,558 barrels. The amount shipped from New York was 59,505 
barrels, aud the value returned by the New York custom-house, $315,933, which gives an average valuation per 
barrel of $5.30. These shipments were distributed, in consigning, as foUows: 

EaiTcls. Bushels. 

To Liverpool 59,777 X 3=179,331 

To Hamburg 2,321 X 3 = 

To Bremeu . . 
To London.. 
To Havre . . . 
To Glasgow . 
To Bristol . . . 
To Cardiii". . . 

. 2, 321 X 3 = 
331 X3 = 


328 X 3 = 


268 X 3 = 


200x 3 = 


70X3 = 


5X3 = 


Total 63,300x3= 189,900 

At an average of 1,200 oysters in a barrel, this shows the total shipment by count to have been nearly 
70,000,000. This average of 1,200 is too low, no doubt, as a multiplier, but is on the safe side ; moreover, it will 
"sum up" a deficiency in putting not quite three bushels into some of the barrels. Taken altogether, this figure 
(70,000,000) is inside the truth, and a fair estimate. This year (1879-'S0) was, however, a poor year for the oyster- 
exporting trade in the north, because of the mildness of the weather. Oysters could be got in the greatest 
abundance all the winter through, and glutted the market. Sometimes, on account of ice, there will be a scarcity 
of stock at a suitable time for shipping. 

The general opinion among New York men is, that the European demand is going to increase steadily, while 
there will not lie an overplus of stock here, since the East river beds are slowly failing and are more and more 
required to furnish a seed-supply. The shippers are, therefore, hopeful of profitable prices in future. 

*The books of the custom-honse In New York i)lace this figure at $315,933. 



Since writing tlie above I have been favored by Cortis & Freeborn, freight brokers, New Tork, with a 
statement of the exports for 1880-81, as follows. It will be seen that it shows a slight increase over the previous 
season : 

Statement op amount of oysters exported to Europe prom New York, between October 9, 1880, 

AND May 14, 1881 — one season. 


October 9. 

November 6 

December 4. 

January 1 . 

To Liver- 

2 622 





















February 5 




March 5 




April 2 





May 9 



To Liver- 







68, 140 





70, 768 



Topography.— The coast of New Jersey, south of Sandy Hook, like that of Long Island, and for similar 
reasons, forms a favorable region for oyster-growth. Long, desolate beaches stand without, and between them and 
the mainland stret(;h great salt lagoons, protected from the sea and receiving a constant supply of fresh water into 
their sliallow and marshy basins. These " bays " extend in almost unbroken continuance from the southern line of 
Monmouth county to Cape May, while in Monmouth county itself there are several indentations of the otherwise 
abrupt coast-line, which afford the oyster-grower an opportunity to practice his profession. 

Oyster-legislation in New Jersey.— But before proceeding to a particular description of these points, a 
recapitulation of the statutes of New Jersey (already alluded to under the heading "New York Bay"), which are of 
general application to the oyster-interests of the state, may prove of interest. They are substantially as appended, 
according to the revision of 1847, the latest authorized, "Title XVI, Fisheries, Chapter 8": 

I. Forbids raking on any oyster-bed, or gathering any oysters or shells, or offering any oysters for sale, between 
May 1 and September 1, in Bergen, Essex, Middlesex, Monmouth, Cape May, Salem, and Gloucester counties; 
between July 1 and September 1, in Hudson, Union, and Cumberland counties ; and between May 1 and October 
1, in Burlington, Atlantic, Ocean, and Cape May counties. In case of violation, whether oysters be taken or not, 
the offender shall pay $10 for each offense; but persons may at any time take and sell oysters from their private 
planted beds. In Cumberland county, moreover, it is forbidden any person to take oysters in any manner on 
Sunday, or between 8 p. m. and 4 a. m., under liability to imprisonment and a fine of from $50 to $500. 

II. No person, residing within or without the state, shall rake for or gather oysters in any waters of the state, 
■with a dredge or any sort of instrument answering the purposes of a dredge, under penalty of $50 fine; provided 
that this and tlie sixth section shall not apply, so far as regards persons residing in the state, to the Delaware bay, 
except within Burlington county. 

III. Justices of the peace shall issue warrants, and constables arrest those violating the preceding sections. 

IV. Forbids selling or offering for sale oysters in this state, between IMay 1 and September 1, except that in 
Cape May county the time is extended to October 1 ; provided, that owners of planted oysters may take up and 
sell at any time. Penalty, $5 fine. 

[There seems to be an inconsistency between this and § I.] 

V. Forbids gathering oysters in this state to be made into lime or to be used in the manufacture of iron. 
Penalty, $50 fine. 

VI. No vessel or craft of any sort permitted even to carry an oyster-dredge, or anything to be used for that 
purpose, under penalty of $50 fine. 


VII. No one who Las not been au actual resident or inhabitant of the state for six months, may rake or 
gather elams, oysters, or shellfish, for himself or employer, in any waters of the state. Violation of this law is a 
misdemeanor, punishable by imi)risonmcnt, or tine not exceeding $1.50, or both, with forfeiture of boat and all 
ai)paratus. liesisting au officer engaged in enforcing this statute, subjects each person implicated to an added fine 
of 8;!0. 

IX. Makes it Uiwful for " any jierson owning marsh or meadow in this state, within the boundaries of which there 
shall be creeks, ditches, or ponds, where oysters grow or will grow, and where such creeks or ditches do not lead to 
any public landing, to lay or plant clams or oysters therein, * * * and for the preservation of wliich to erect a 
fence, hang or affix gates or locks across said creeks or ditches, to prevent any person or persons from entering the 
same ". 

iSec. 12. If any unauthoi ized person be found with a boat inside any fence or gate as aforesaid, where clams or 
oysters have been planted, or shall break down any such fence or boundaries, he shall be liable for every oifeuse to 
imprisonment of not more than six months, or to a fine not to exceed $100, or both; provided, that the free 
navigation of no thoroughfare or channel may be obstructed. 

X. No persons, under any pretense whatever, shall take away " from any natural oyster-banks or beds in this 
state, any old shells, other than such as cannot be removed or separated from the oysters without injuriug the same ; 
and all such shells shall be culled and separated from the oysters and thrown back again upon the said natural 
banks or beds". Penalty, fine of $10 aud forfeiture of ofl'ending boat and tools. But this does not prohibit persons 
taking shells from their own private beds. 

Many statutes exist in addition to this, which have only a local application, and hence are quoted at the points 
where they are in force. It would seem diiiicult to enforce these laws upon reading them ; but the reader must take 
into account the extreme jealousy which causes every man to watch his neighbor as a cat would watch a mouse, if 
not bopnig to find him derelict, at least resolved to catch liim, expose him, and so thin the ranks of rivalry as well as 
share the reward. Every oysterman is thus as good as a special constable, and the law takes care of itself. Tlie 
attention to the laws, however, varies in diiferent parts of the state, and entirely different constructions are put 
upon statutes in different counties. 

Shkewsbuiiy. — The most northern of the indentations of the northern coast of New Jersey, to which I have 
alluded, is that just at the heel of Sandy Hook, and at the base of the Navesiuk Highlands, comprising the Navesink 
and Shrewsbury rivers. Shrewsbury is one of the oldest oyster- regions in the neighborhood of New York, and its 
product has always enjoyed a higii reputation in her markets. 

In 1853 the Herald's review of the oyster-interests in the vicinity of New York, heretofore quoted from the files 
of Mr. Thomas De Voe, containeti paragraphs relating to Shrewsbury, which are so interesting that I quote them at 

The number of men engaged in the oyster- fisheries at Shrewsbury is computed at 250. Of these more than one-half are employed in 
trausplauting from the natural beds in Jfowark bay to the artificial beds on the coast of Shrewsbury. 

Shrewsbury oysters are said to be inferior even to those procured from the best beds of the East river. Their flavor is a little more 
pungent ; they have a yellowish tint, and the shell is generally whiter. They are a smaller oyster, but in proportion to their size, they 
contain more meat. The iieculiar color, by which thoy may be easily distinguished from all other kinds, is doubtless imparted to them by 
the uatiue of the bottom of the river. The beds cover an extent of two or three miles, and are owned exclusively by the farmers along 
the banks of the Shrewsbury ; and the beds extend across the river, which is between two and three hniidi'ed yards wide. When the tide 
recedes the oysters .are exposed to view, and may be gathered with au ordinary jiitchfork. The operation of " tonging" is only necessary 
with those lie in the bed of the river, and therefore comparatively few boats are required. The larger part of those sent to New 
York are transported by steamboat. The farmers employ persons to take them up .at low tide and send them to market to be sold, on their 
own account. In some few instances they enter into a sort of partnership with oystermen owning sail-boats, who obtain one-half the 
profits in consideration of taking them from the beds with tongs and carrying them to the city. 

There are two branches of the river in which they are planted, but those procured from the beds in the southern branch command 
the higher price. The bottom of the river is covered with a rich black mud, to the dejith of from 4 to 6 feet, and it is this which gives 
the oyster its yellow color and peculiar flavor. 

An oyster-bed there is almost as valuable as a gold mine, less injurious to health, and easier to work. Their owners .are not only 
well-to-do in the world, but are considered by those in the trade wealthy. They are not required to pay any tax for their privileges, and 
there is very little risk attending their l)usiness, compared to tliat to which others are subject. About §200,000 worth are sold during the 
year, and tliis amount is inadequate to the demand. There is no possibility of an increase in the supply, however, for the only of the 
river capable of growing them is already laid out in beds, and its jiroductive powers are now taxed to their fullest extent. 

The trade in Shrewsbury oysters differs very mateiially from all others; there are less oystennen eng.aged in it, in consequence of a 
Large jiortion being .sent to this city by steamers in place of sloops and other sail-boats. The capital invested in it is perhaps less, in 
projjortiou to the article, than that invested in the East river and Virginia trades, and the profits are more considerable. 

Shrew.sbury never possessed any natural beds of oysters, and its celebrated stock always was, and still is, rai.sed 
from transplanted young, obtained now largely in Keyport. "At present," wrote Professor Lockwood, in 1873, "the 
' Slirewsbnry ' is accounted by many as the emperor of the bivalves, and will fetch in market at wholesale from $1 50 
to S3 50 a hundred." P>ut for several years their production has grown less and less, and probaldy ten times as 
many reputed " Slirewslmrys" were sokl in the markets as anuually came out of that river. During the winter of 
1879-80 only about 20,000 bushels were harvested, by about 15 planters. About one-third of these are northern 


oysters, mainly bouglit at Key port, ami transplauted to Shrewsbury river, where they Avill gi-ow in two years to a 
large size. These oy;sters chiefly go to supply Long Branch, which, a dealer informed me, used from his depot 
alone 125,000 oysters and 40,000 clams each season. The two largest hotels consume 25,000 oysters each, weekly. 
In early days a special law was passed api)lying to these waters, as follows : 

It sliall uot bo lawful for any person or porsons to rake • * * or carry away any oysters other than by wading in and jiicking 
up by hand the same, within the following bounds, in the river commonly called » * ' the North or Navesink, lying witliin tlie 
conuty of Jlonmonth, * » » above a direct line from the store-house of Eseck White, on the Shrewsbury side of the river, to the 
dwelling-house of Thomas Layton, on the Middletowu side of the river aforesaid. Penalty, $10 fine for each offense. 

There is also a law extant against erecting stakes, or any other means of using " wares" or fyke-nets for taking 
fish on the liottom of Shrewsbury river where oysters are planted. 

Shark rivee and its local laws. — The next point southward that concerns us is Shark river. It was once 
thought that this bay would be exceedingly productive, and there was really a. considerable industry, which gave 
rise to enactments in the legislature as follows, being the amended statute of 1870, revising the ])revious laws of 1801 : 

This law (1) authorized the board of chosen freeholders of Monmouth county to occupy, during twenty years, 
for oyster culture. Shark river, within the following boundaries: Beginning at low- water mark at Search point, in 
the township of Ocean, and running thence in a straight line to Bukey's point in the township of Wale ; thence 
down the shore at low-water mark to a stake standing on low-water mark and on a line with the east end of James 
W. White's dwelling-house ; thence northerly and on a straight line to a stake standing at low-water mark on the 
west side of Long point opposite Yellow bank, in the township of Ocean ; thence up the shore of said river at 
low-water mark to the beginning. 

II. The board of freeholders shall appoint commissioners, holding office one year, to survey and subdivide 
the above space of river into two-acre lots for oyster-culture ; but no individual shall own more than two acres, and 
no company more than five. 

Sec. 3. These lots shall be rented at public auction, to the highest bidder, for from one to five years, the sum 
bid to be paid annually and secured to the commissioners. None but citizens may hold ground. The commissioners 
may renew a lease for five to ten years, but at a rate not less than previously paid. 

III. Makes it the duty of the couiinissioners to enforce the protective laws, and to collect and devote to the 
school fund the rents due and penalties assessed ; they must also make a sworn report to the board of freeholders. 

In 1877 about 200 lots were said to be leased, at an average rental of $2 a year, and many persons were 
employed ; but at present the business has declined, and only enough remains to sui^ply the local consumi^tion in 
summer at Ocean Beach and other neighboring summer hotels. 

Barnegat bay. — Beyond Shai'k river no oysters exist or are cultivated until Barnegat bay is reached, where, 
in its broad waters, an immense and ancient industry of this kind is followed. 

Here, as at other points, the Indians had been wont to come, generation after generation, in search of shellfish. 
This is attested by the remarkable heaps of shells left as monuments of their feasts, and which are again worthy of 
special description. 

The natural beds in Barnegat bay begin about three miles above the village of Barnegat, with an occasional 
" strike" a little lower down, and extend for about ten miles northward, with a width of about two miles. They 
are known as the Cedar Creek grounds. The bottom here is. gravelly and more or less sprinkled with dead shells, 
and this is one of the great sources of seed for all the coast southward. Boats also come in considerable numbers 
from the Earitan, Staten Island, and Blue Point districts, but less now than formerly. From this part of the bay 
came the once famous "Log Creeks". These beds are reported to be constantly losing strength. The carelessness 
or entire neglect in culling the seed taken away, returns so few shells to the ^ater that the cultch upon which 
spawn may rest is growing very scarce. This is suicidal to the whole commuinty, but selfish greed prevails every 
season over prudence. Laws designed to protect these beds are inoi>erative to a great extent, except that a 
stranger will feel their force if he attempts to tong in the summer, as the natives permit themselves to do, or tries 
to carry away oysters so small that more than 350 of them will be needed to fill a bushel. This last is an almost 
forgotten law of the three shore counties, Ocean, Burlington, and Atlantic. 

A second large ground for gathering oyster-seed is what is called the Gravelliugs, a shoal of gravel occupying 
a space several miles square in the mouth of Mullica river. This is the name the river had of old, and still goes 
by, among the local sailors ; but on the late maps I find no such name, the water meant being denominated Great 
bay, and forming the expanded outlet of Wading river, Atsion river, and several creeks. Egress into the ocean is 
had through " ifew " inlet, which opens between " Old " and Brigautine inlets ; the three passages, with their 
dividing, sedgy islands, separating Brigautine beach from Long beach, which is unbroken, save by Barnegat inlet, 
all the way northward to Squan. 

The " Gravelliugs" extend up the Mullica river from the head of Great bay for six or eight miles, to just above 
the motith of Bass river, and produce seed regularly every year, though u\ varying abundance. 

The seed from the (Vilar Creek beds is preferred, iiowever, by the West creek and Manahawken planters, as it 
seems to live and grow into better shape on the local beds. The Gravelliugs are thus raked chiefly by planters to 


the soutlnvaid. There seems no dimiuutiou in tlie quantity to be gathered there from year to year, although 
euornious quantities of cultch are taken away at each seed-gathering, and nothing retiu-ned. 

Planting was long ago — perhaps fifty years — well under way in this region, and fomierly, perhaps, was more 
widely followed than at present, but no more successfully. Leaving out of view the attempts just begun to foster 
the interest at Forked river, Barnegat is the northernmost place in this district where oyster-culture is followed. 
To aid and protect this industry these laws were long ago made by' the legislature, as annexed: 

1. Be it enacted » » * , That it shall be lawful for any person, being a citizen of the state of New Jersey, and resident of the county 
of Ocean, within the boundaries hereinafter described for the jnirpose, to state off any quantity of land covered with water, not exceeding 
two acres, marking the boundaries thereof by stakes or other marks, plainly visible to persons navigating the waters so occupied, to plant 
oysters ; provided, that the share-owners shall have the right and preference to stake off as far as their deeds allow, by running their lines 
for that purpose. 

2. Av.d he it enacted, That the boundaries within which land may be so staked otf and occupied shall be as follows: Beginning at 
Cedar Creek point at low-water mark on the west bank of Barnegat bay, along said bank to the south line of Ocean county, running off 
300 yards distant from the shore. 

3. And be it enacted, That oysters within the boundaries of all said waters shall be the private, personal property of the persons so 
occupying said land * * * j and any person who shall » » » injure or carry away the same, while said boundaries are so marked, 
shall be guilty of larceny » * * and sli.all forfeit * * ' all the implements used for taking the same » » » . 

It would seem as though this language was plain enough to protect the interests of any one who availed 
himself of the privileges alluded to under its promise. However, there does not exist the public sentiment to 
secure the execution of the law. Ko man is willing to risk his money in planting, when he has no surety that 
he will be able to reap any reward for his outlay. Hence, oyster-raising at Barnegat, where there are hundreds 
of acres of perfectly good but idle bottom, and plenty of capital ready to be thus employed, has dwindled, until 
the entire crop last season was reported at less than 8,000 bushels, all of which was consumed locally. As this 
small crop was divided among forty or fifty growers, one can easily see that nothing of a business is carried on here. 

The sentiment of the town opposes any change which shall protect individual planting. Night-thieves and 
foggy-day oystermen, therefore, control and ruin the oyster-interests, making it so risky to plant that men of means 
will not put their money into it. Without some betterment, oyster-planting must continue to be a failure here as 
a busiuess, though thousands of acres of good bottom remain unutilized, where both native and southern seed 
would grow to great advantage and a most profitable industry, employing steadily all the now idle laboring element 
of the shore-towns, here and northward. 

To show how profitable oyster-planting may be here, Captain Cox tohl me that some years ago he laid down a 
lot of yonng oysters which cost him $13. After two years he procured a man to take up and sell all that were 
upon the beds, giving his agent one-half. The returns to him were $57, his agent taking the like amount, showing 
an increase of about 1,000 per cent. In addition to this, a dozen or fifteen bushels were eaten by each of the two 

The experiment of " shelling" has been made with great success, and it is said that any one might reasonably 
expect to get 100 bushels of seed from 20 bushels of stool laid down anywhere in the upper half of the bay. 
Popular coustruction, however, makes such cultch-beds "natural ground", and everybody will go and rake. It has 
even occurred that a man's oysters taken off his private bed and placed on staked ground in a creek to "freshen", 
have been raided upon by thieves, and though he could prove the facts he was unable to recover in local courts. 

Manahawken, Tuckerton, and vicinity. — To the south of Barnegat a difi'erent sentiment prevails, and at 
Manahawken, West Creek, Tuckerton, and intermediate villages, live a large number of oyster-planters who have 
beds opposite their homes to a considerable extent, and also down in Great bay, below the islands, almost meeting 
the Absecon men, and associating with the planters at Bass river and Port Republic. 

The West Creek and Manahawken men, as I have said, get the most of their seed at Cedar creek. The precise 
number of planters, large and small, it was difticult to ascertain. I was assured, however, that two-thirds of all 
the men in the town were directly engaged, which would give to Manahawken about 125 and to West Creek about 
100 ivlanters, a, considerable portion of whom get all the money they ever see out of the oysters they catch and 
plant for themselves or other people. Most of them aie married, and it is safe to say that at least 200 families in 
the two villages derive their support from this industry. Their best planting-grounds are off Horse point. 

Tuckerton, according to the late census, had about 1,800 inhabitants. A thousand of these, it is certain, if not 
more, live bj' means of the oyster- and clam-fisheries, with little outside resources. It is the one industry which 
keeps the town going, for little else is possible; and it is undoubtedly true that the area of bay -bottom devoted to 
this work is much more productive than any equal area of adjacent sandy and pine-covered shore. At Tuckerton 
and northward, therefore, from 2,000 to 2,500 people get their support out of oyster-culture. On the Mullica river 
are two other settlements, Bass Iliver and Port Eepublicf which will add from five to seven hundred more. All 
of these men get the main part of their seed early in the fail at the mouth of the Mullica. During all day of 
September 30, and during the night, schooners, sloops, cat-boats, sail-scows, trim yachts, and shapeless, ragged 
tubs, have gathered there, chosen a spot out of what was left of the space, and anchored. Once the anchor down, 
no movement elsewhere could be made. E-ach sail-craft towed behind it one or two small scows termed "garveys", 
and had npou its deck one or more small skill's, or those ingenious tluckiug-boats, pecidiar to this region, called 


It is a common thing for the first of October's results to show 100 or 150 bushels of seed to the man, on the 
most favorable ground. If the owners keep all this seed for their own use, two days will generally load their 
vessel and send them to their planting beds, after which they may return or may go elsewhere. If they prefer to 
sell it to the larger planters, who are all ready to buy, they were paid, this year and last, 10 cents per bushel. 
The second day yields more jjoorly, and at the end of a week 12 or 15 bushels to the man is considered a good days' 
work. To compensate for scarcity, 15 cents is paid by buyers. This seed consists almost wholly of the growth of 
the year, or at least of the previous year, and cannot be separated from the shells to which it is attached. The 
careless culling which is done, therefore, gives little back. On the ujiper part of the river-grounds, however, the 
spawn grows upon the gravel of the bottom, and there are few shells. There are also brought up a few marketable 
oysters, that have escaped heretofore until they have attained a considerable size. Though very finely flavored, 
these large natural oysters are not of good appearance, and bring only 60 to 80 cents a bushel in market. 

Statistics of Barnegat, Tuckerton, etc. — Oysters in these waters grow only moderately fast, and must 
lie three or four years before being taken to market. From Tuckerton large quantities are sold to Atlantic City 
men, who fatten them on the sand-bars and sell them the same season. The best of all the oysters at present are 
said to come from in front of Horse point, Manahawken, bringing considerably more money than the others. They 
are planted more thinly there than in Tuckerton bay, which is said to make the profitable difference. Prices in 
1879-'80 were $3 for large and $2 for small sizes, per 1,000, for Tuckerton jilants, while Manah aw ken's stock brought 
a large advance upon this. 

This year (1880) has proved very good for this district, both in abundance of seed and in the quality of tGe 
planted stock which is now (October, 1880) being sent to market. The summer of 1879 was a poor one for growth 
and prices, and much of the seed died, so that the croj) which was gathered in 1879-80, and reported upon for my 
use, is not considered as high as before, or probably up to this year's product. The statistics are as follows: 

Oysters raised for marlcct, 1879-'80. 


In Barnegat 3,000 

lu Manaliawken • .5,000 

In West Creek 30,000 

111 Tuckerton 30,000 

In Bass River 10,000 

In Port Republic ^ 10,000 

Total 88,000 

Families supported. 

In Tuckerton 200 to 250 

In West Creek and Manaliawken 175 to 200 

In Bass River 50 to 75 

In Port Republic 50 to 75 

Total 475 to GOO 

Ntimber of sail-vessels, about 500; value of same, about $125,000. 
Number of small boats, about 750; value of same, $7,500 to $10,000. 

The list of vessels reported by Mr. George W. Mathis, collector at Tuckerton, New Jersey, as registered in this 
district and employed in the oyster- or clam-fisherj^, reads as follows : 

Naino. Tons. Name. Tons. Name. Tons. 

S.arei)ta 5.02 Louis D. Seuat 9.04 Henrietta J 7.35 

Hero 5.17 I Wonder 9.66 Mary Grey 15.96 

William H. Mills 11.83 Liilie Jones 12.37 Rboda aud Jane 6.57 

Golden Feather 6.91 General J. L. Selfridge 21.36 Alice Ridgway 5.49 

H-lO-W-8 5.04 Sunbeam 22.16 Dart '. 5.11 

Maggie Boll 12.83 Four BiotUcis 11.34 Kate Becker 17.3 

Laura V. Stiles 5.78 John A. Parks 10.73 

Absecon and VICINITY. — Eccd's bay. Little bay, Absecon bay, and the other thoroughfares through the salt 
marshes behind Brigantine beach, afford good opportunities for growing oysters, and have long been utilized. In 
the neighborhood of the town of Absecon there are said to be one hundred men, i)art fartners, part fishermen, who 
regularly plant oysters and supply the marlcet. Only a very few of these, however, devote their main time to it. 
It was to meet the case of these inclosed and almost dooryard waters, that section 14 of the revised statute 
relating to oysters was made, which enacts that persons owning flats or coves along the shores of the tide-waters 
between Great Egg Harbor and Little Egg Harbor, Atlantic county, inclusive of the shores of the ri^^ers that lie 
within that county, may mark out ground by stalces of a prescribed size and number, for the planting of oysters 
or clams, but no stakes can be set beyond ordinary low-water mark. Section KJ also applies to Burlington county, 
but seems to add nothing to section 14. These planters get their seed (small) by going after it in their own sloops to 
Barnegat bay, the Gravellings, or Egg Harbor. It is put down in shallow water, on a soft bottom, and allowed three 


years" growth. This brings it to "box" size, and no oysters are sold from Absecon less than this size. Until last 
year the price was $8 a thousand, but last year some lots were sold as low as $G, because not up to the usual 
quality. The shipments are all made Ijy rail to Philadelphia, and sold there on commission, a system which has 
lately giviMi rise to much complaint on account of alleged frauds. 

In addition to the northern oysters, bred as I have described, other stock is also brought from Virginia and 
given a season's growth. The total raised for market during the ]>ast, however, of both kinds, by Absecon 
planters, would not exceed 20,000 bushels, three-fourths of which were from the Chesapeake. This would hardly 
represent an average crop, since many planters preferred to let their oysters lie to selling them at so poor prices. 

Atlantic City. — At Atlantic City there are three firms of oyster-planters and dealers, consisting of five men. 
They deal more or less in fish and i)rovisions also. The oysters handled at present consist of southern stock 
(six or seven thousand bushels), which do well here, if they can be procured in good order. Besides this about 18,000 
bushels of full-grown, marketable oysters are bought at Absecon and Barnegat and laid down here on a hard 
bottom, in shallow water, where the beds go dry at low tide, simply for summer use in the large seaside hotels 
which make Atlantic City famous. It is probably not fair to count these in statistics of production. 

At Brigantine beach there is a similar industry, selling at Atlantic City, but not of much account, and hardly 
to be reckoned as a point of original production. 

Lake's bay. — Just behind the island upon which Atlantic City is built, and to the southward, is an extensive 
sheet of inclosed water known as Lake's bay, which is continued southward in numerous channels through the salt- 
marshes behind Absecon beach, until it reaches the inlet and mouth of Great Egg Harbor river. Along the shore 
of this bay are various villages that carry on extensive operations in oyster-culture, and have done so for many 
years. I refer to Pleasantville, Smith's Landing, Bakersville, Leedsville, and Somer's Point. The best part of the 
bay is said to be what are called the "muddy beds", directly in front of Smith's Landing, and about a quarter of a 
mile distant. The advantage of these beds is said to lie in the fact, that the drainings from the "platforms" flow 
over them at low tide, giving them a bath of fresh water twice daily. Much damage occurs here, however, whenever 
northwest gales occur, the soft mud in the marshes being loosened and drifted off into the bay to settle on the beds. 
The only enemy of the oyster reported here as of much consequence, is the Urosaljniix, called by the natives "snail- 
bore"; these mollusks become very troublesome some years, but had not occurred in great numbers during the 
season of my visit (1880). 

Lake's bay platforms. — The "platforms" to which I have alluded, are in some cases nothing better than a 
mere plank floor, set in the bank in such a way that a boat-load of oysters, which are always extremely muddy and 
foul when first taken from the beds, may be floated alongside at high tide, and the oysters shoveled overboard 
upon it. The receding tide leaves this bare, and at the same time opens sluicegates, which allow a stream of fresh 
water from the land to cover the oysters, under the genial influence of which they rid themselves of the distasteful 
brine contained within their shells, and also puff out their forms to an appearance of fatness very pleasing to the 

Frequently, however, an elaboration of tlie platform is constructed, which is worthy of special note. The bank 
is dug into and piles are driven, until a floor can be laid at a proper level below high-water mark. Over this a tight 
shed is built, somt times 75 feet long by 25 feet wide, and of considerable height. On one side of this shed a canal 
is dug, into which a boat may run, and its cargo is easily shoveled through large openings in the side of the shed 
on to the floor within. On the opposite side of the shed, both within and without, run floors or stages iibove the 
reach of high water, where the oysters can be piled after freshening, packed in barrels and loaded on boats or drays 
for shipment. When the tide goes down it leaves the oysters upon the platform within the shed nearly bare, a 
depth of S or 10 inches of water being retained by a footboard at the seaward end of the shed. An arrangement 
of sluices now admits the fresh water, and the freshening begins. Over the space devoted to the platform or vat, 
at a sufficient height to let a man stand underneath to shovel up the oysters for packing, in which work he uses a 
dung-fork, is a broad shelf or garret, where barrels, Itaslcets, Ijoat-gear, and other small property can be safely 
stowed, since the whole shed, platform, oysters, and all, can be locked up. I have given an illustration of one of 
these houses at Smith's Landing. 

Shipments of oysters from Lake's bay to Philadelphia. — From these settlements on Lake's bay two 
lines of railway run to Philadelphia, side by side. One is the Camden and Atlantic, and the other the Philadelphia 
and Atlantic City (narrow gauge). Since the recent completion of this latter road, all the Lake's bay oysters have 
been sent by its line, which oflered superior advantages; and as none go to Philadelphia (the almost exclusive 
market) by any other means, the railway's account of transportation of oysters may be accepted as supplying the 
statistics of the annual product of the region. The agent at Pleasantville gave me the figures for the season of 
1879-80, which are as follows : 

Oysters sent to rhiladelphia. 

624 onr-loads, at 70 liaricls liarrclH.. 43, tiSO 

43,(;s0 barrels, at about i bushels to 1 b.arrcl biishols.. 1:10,1)00 

43,fi80 barrels, at 500 oysters to 1 barrel '. oysters.. 21, H 10,000 

4;i,r,-*0 barrels, at -^40 jmiiiikIs (o 1 barrel ]ioiiiids.- 10, 4^•;!, --'DO 

43,i;?0 barrels, at -JO eeuls li.ight Sll,:;.'ii; tO 



These oysters were sent by from 100 to 120 shippers, which represent the number of planters. There are from 
50 to 75 men in addition, who are hired, and so getting a living out of the oyster-interests here. The narrow-gauge 
railway company proposes to run a line, which may be finished liy the time this report is published, down the bay 
shore to Somer's Point, Beesley's Point, and Ocean City. This will furnish so man j' additional facilities for shi])ping, 
doing away with the present necessity of hauling the oysters by team from one to seven miles to the station, that 
a large increase of oyster-production is anticipated. Many new men are engaging in planting, and the expectation 
seems well founded. 

Although I have reckoned all the shipments in the table printed above in barrels, yet in fact the use of sacks 
of gunny-cloth is common here. The sacks, I was told, cost from 8 to 9 cents, and will last for ten or fifteen trips, if 
they can be got back from the consignee in Philadelphia. Barrels are cheaper, since they can be bought at 10 cents 
apiece, in Philadelphia and Atlantic City, where the summer hotels consume enormous quantities of imi^orted flour, 
and they will generally be returned for several ti'ips. Two sacks are counted to the barrel, or 250 oysters to the sack. 

The prices received for Lake's bay oysters last season averaged 40 cents, at which rate the total value of the 
crop, which may be very closely estimated at 130,000 bushels, would come to $52,000. Divided among 100 planters 
this would give an average income of about $520. 

Oyster-fleet of So^ier's Point district. — I counted at Smith's Landing about 33 pretty good sail-boats 
and about 50 garvies, etc. I judge from inquiries, that this was one-third of all owned between the railway and 
Somer's Point, and that $200 apiece would be a large average estimate for the value of the sail-boats. Many of 
them devote much of their time, in summer, to raking clams from the extensive grounds at the lower end of the bay. 
In the custom-house of this district, situated at Somer's . Point, I find reported as registered on July 1, 1880, 59 
vessels engaged in oystering and clamming, as follows: 


A. Kobinson 

Alfred C. Harmer .. 


C. P. Hoffman 

Charles Lawrence . . 
Cordelia R. Price . . 



George S. Courtney 

H. M. Somers 

Hattie J 

Henry J. May 

J. A. Cbamberliu .. 

J. G. Crate .. 

J. & C. Merritt .... 

James W. Lee 

John Anna 


Margaret A. Amelia 
Mary Disston 

Tons. Name. 

30.87 Mary Ella 

2-.>.25 E.B.Leeds 

20.24 Susan Leach 

41.75 Two Sisters 

21. 50 Wallace M. French 

42.30 Alert 

22. 64 Andrew Luff barry . . 

40.25 BeUe 

25. 15 Charles Haight 

31.23 Dan Sooy 

30.03 'EllaM 

25.42 Emily Smith , 

61.25 Express. , 

43.32 Golden Light 

35.41 Hunter 

20.83 Idelwild 

29.36 J. F. Kuapp , 

31.70 loetta 

23. 85 John Wesley 

33.18 JuliaA. Eeid 

28. 92 


XL 93 
14 70 

14. 02 

9. 73 
16. 24 
12. 60 


L. C. Wallace 


Linnie Norcross . . 

Little Sallie 


Maggie Sutphen . 
Major Anderson.. 


Margaret Ann 

Manetta Sheldon. 


Ocean Star 


S. M. Daugherty. 

U. S. Grant 

Uncle Dan 


William Albert . . 


16. 61 






17. 51 

5. 63 




12. 69 








Total 1,165.60 

The collector of the district, Mr. Thomas E. Morris, adds : " In addition to the above there are some hundreds 
of small boats, under five tons, engaged in catching clams and oysters in this district, of which I can give no 
account." I should say that about $75,000 would represent the total value of all the floating property, large and 
small, devoted to the shellfisheries in this neighborhood, which includes the coast of Burlington and Atlantic 
counties, but is practically restricted to Lake's bay and Great Egg Harbor. 

Great Egg Habor and Dennis. — Having crossed the Great Egg Harbor river, you find yourself in Cape 
May county, and still among oystermen. 

The Great Egg Harbor river and bay, with its tributary, the Tuekahoe river, contain large and ancient seed-beds, 
which supply a large part of this coast with all the seed transplanted. These beds have been greatly extended in 
area since they began to be tonged, and do not seem greatly to suffer in consequence of the yearly raids made upon 
them. In the Great Egg Harbor river several men have, within a few years, undertaken to raise young oysters by 
planting cultch (shells) and catching spawn. They do not use this themselves, but when it is a year old sell it to 
planters, who paid this year about 40 cents a bushel. There is no difflculty in securing such a supply of spawn 
every season. The abundance of seed-oysters in this bay formerlj- is proverbial. I was assured by more than one 
person, that years go it was the custom, at the beginning of the season, to anchor a scow upon the ground and not 
move all day. Continuous touging in one spot, from sunrise to sunset, wcmld not exhaust the bottom. The seed lay 
several inches deep, apparently, and from 100 to 200 bushels could be caught l)y one man in a single day. Now the 
seed is far thinner, but the beds are spread over a largely increased area, due to incessant tonging. 

Adjoining Great Egg Harbor and the neighboring coast is Upper township. South of it lies Dennis, which 
stretches across to the Delaware bay, and is bounded southerly by Townsend's inlet. My information in respect to 
both i.s chiefly Irum Mr. Peter Watkius, a shix)per, and one of the largest planters in the district. 









Dennis township contains Dennis creek and West creek on its Delaware side, both of which abound in a natural 
growth of oysters every year, and in neither of which, consequently, is there any planting, more than perhaps a little 
desultory " laying out" in tributary creeks for private use. The laws of 18.57 forbade dredging for oysters in Dennis 
creek, and forbade auy taking of oysters from natural beds there "to be sold outside of Cape May county", with au 
especial injunction against non-residents. The natural oysters caught there grow in the mud, iu a crowded condition, 
and hence are long, slender, and strap-shaped. They get the name " Stnckups " in consequence. Their shells are weak 
and thin, because of an absence of carbonate of lime in the soil of the surrounding region. The water here is veiy 
fresh ; but the best of the full-grown oysters are annually peddled about the neighborhood, and regarded as of 
sui^ei-ior quality as a fresh oyster. 

The business, then, of this district, comprised in these two townships, lies in the sounds and thoroughfares on 
the eastern shore, between the mainland and the outer (Peck's and Ludlam's) beaches. The bottoms of these sounds 
are muddy — some tough, some soft — except upon the bars, which are hard sand. The ordinary depth at low water 
is less than two feet, while the bars go dry every tide. Oysters are planted in both places, but chiefly on the mud. 
The seed used all the way from Towusend's inlet to Great Egg Harbor, is for the most part gathered in that harbor 
and its rivers. The price varies greatly. Planters used to give 45 cents a bushel, and got a heaping half-barrel for 
measure. In 1S79 they paid 37 cents, measured in a scant basket, and this year the price has been 40 cents on the 
grounds, with 5 to 7 cents freight to be added. This is the year-old and larger clean seed, known locally as "plants"; 
the small "blisters" being little used here, since they never do well, nine- tenths of them failing to survive the winter. 

Nearly every man who lives along the shore is more or less concerned in the oyster-planting, yet as a regular 
business it is hardly more than ten years old. My informant counted 30 planters along the eastern water-front of 
the two townships, but not all of them depend upon oystering for even a majority of the support of their families. 
There are none, indeed, but who also conduct a farm ; many are concerned in the fisheries, others employed half 
the year at the life-saving stations, and another portion spend the summer-leisure in raking clams. A large crop 
is not, therefore, to be expected from this coast, and it is estimated as follows : 

Two planters raise 1,500 bushels 3,000 

Four planters raise 600 busbols — 2, 400 

Twenty-four planters raise 300 busbcls 7, 200 

12, 600 

The ])lanting of southern stock has not, as a rule, been profitable in this district. It is considered better policy 
to wait longer for the more hardy but slow-growing Egg Harbor plants, than to risk the easily killed, tender but 
more rapidly-matured, Chesapeakes. Although the original expense of planting the northern oysters is largely iu 
excess of that of the southern stock, the price received is larger in market at the end, and the risk of loss far less. 
Yet every few years some adventurous spirit makes a success of his southern importations, and wins very large profits. 
This chance is alluring, and a thousand or fifteen hundred bushels are brought up every year from Virginia. 

All of the oysters raised here go to Philadelphia by rail. They are iirepared for market by the usual freshening 
on platforms at ebb-tide, and bring high prices. This season (18S0) from $4 25 to $5 a barrel have been received 
by the shippers, who paid the small planters $3 30 at the shore, or $3 50 delivered in barrels at the railway station. 
The fieight into the city is 40 cents, with an added 10 cents for cartage. 

Early oystek-business op Cape May county. — Before the railway was put here all the oysters (chiefly 
natural growth) were sent to Philadelphia and New York by water. From the diary of Jacob Spicer, quoted in 
Dr. Maurice Beesley's JSarly History of Cape May County (Geol. Surv. of N. J., 1857), occurs the following item : 

There is at least ten boats belongiug to the county which carry oysters; and admit they make three trips fall and three trijis spring, 
each, and carry 100 bushels each triii, that makes 6,000 bushels, at what they neat '2s. per bushel, £000. 

Six hundred pounds sterling was about $3,000 ; now the annual resources of the county iu oysters approach 
$00,000 in value, and the shipping involved on the ocean shore of the county alone, consisting of a dozen small 
vessels in the Chesapeake carrying-trade, and perhaps 40 sail-boats for local service on the beds, are worth not less 
than $30,000. A portion of this wealth, however, remains to be accounted for. 

Oyster-fleex op the Bridgetown district. — The custom-house of the district is at Bridgeton, and the 
collector has taken the trouble to furnish me with a complete list of the vessels oystering and registered in his ofiBco 
in 1880. The district comprises all the coast from the Tuckahoe river, Cape May county, around to Alloway's creek, 
in Salem county, and the list is as annexed : 



Name. Tods. Name. Tone. Name. Tons. 

A. S. Mulford 24.81 Arctic 34.32 D.C.Adams 29.!J9 

AliceC.Ogden 34.39 Calvin Dilks 25.62 D. P. Mulford 27.00 

Alice M. Ridgway 26.03 Caroline H. Me.ars 32.06 Dove 22.20 

Almedia 21. .51 Cashier 24.49 E. Fowler 33.85 

Annie C. Moore 27.27 Charter 22.64 Edna M. Lore 33.71 

Anna Mary Newcomb 20.11 Cecelia B. Sheppard 29.98 Elanora 33.23 

Amanda B. Lore 21.30 Dawning Light 22.67 Elizabeth B 21.78 



Name. Tons. 

Ellsworth 2(i.30 

Equal Eights 25.25 

Falcon 21.28 

G. Gaudy 29.11 

G. W.Crist 21.81 

General McClellau 23.81 

General Palmer 2(5. 42 

Harriet Smith 27.46 

Hannah and Ida 40.68 

Hattie R. Johnson 29. 13 

Ida Marts 24.98 

Irene A. B. Crawford 20.86 

J. B. Taiilane 25.16 

Jacob Rivell 35.61 

James H. Nixon 32.27 

Jennie E. Fow 25.84 

Julia B 25.96 

scnooxEKS — continued. 

Name. Tons. 

Laura Parsons 24.59 

Lizzie M. Weaver 33. 42 

Mary A. Rogers 24.03 

Mary F. Sheppard 32.06 

Mary H. Lake 31.83 

Mary W. Mears 34. 12 

Mary A. Hand 33.!55 

Mary & Margaret 21. 34 

Marcus L. Godfrey 24.17 

Mattie L.Ford .► 32.20 

Messenger 23. 34 

Milton R. Studams 59.59 

Nettie and Lena 31. 89 

North Star 20.10 

Prize 28.61 

R. Blackman 29.98 


R. S. Burney 

Richard B. Jones.. 

Richard Vanx 

Sallio and Ceola . . 
Samuel P. Duttou. 


Snow Flake 

State Rights 

Sarah Elizabetli .. 

S. C. Kemble 

T. B. Husted 

T. 0. Ladow 

Tidal Wave 

Village BeUo 


Wliite Wing 

William C. Lore .. 

R. D. Bateman 29.51 

Most of these vessels are new, and cost $5,000 each. A present valuation of all, however, would reduce 
amount to an average of $2,000, which would make the total $144,000. 


32. 00 
20. 99 
23. 18 


Name. Tons. 

Acasta 13.97 

A. Huliugs 8.31 

Advance 6. 55 

Addy Lee 6.62 

AlicoM 14.65 

Amanda & David 13.99 

AnnaB 7.90 

AnuaM 10.44 

Annie N. Carey 8. 24 

Annie Neary 9. 36 

Annie M 5. 11 

Arctic 11.46 

Bay Queen 19.48 

Belle 16.56 

Bell Sage 10.10 

Black Dart 7.30 

Callena 12.62 

Charles T. Shepjiard 14.98 

Charlie Smith 18.52 

Caroline - 17. 81 

Carrie M. Edwards 6.55 

Clara 14.07 

Colfax 11.05 

Cygnet.. 14.72 

DaniclF 14.81 

Daniel B. Harris 14.96 

Detector 17.03 

Dove 9.43 

Echo 6.13 

EllaC 8.36 

EllaD 14.05 

Ellen H.Weeb 9.58 

Eliza Carlisle 6.74 

ElmiraH. Lake 9.95 

Emily R.Green 14.04 

Emily and Rebecca 10. 79 

Franklins 18.67 

G. H. Vausciver 13. 72 

George L. Broom 17.90 

George & Morton 16. 67 

Glide 9.63 

Golden Feather 7. 57 

H. SchcUinger 11.30 

HamiahM. Bell 6.30 

Ilany C 7.97 

Harriet Elu>er 12. 03 

llattioB 5. .V) 

Henry and Howard 14. 31 

Henry S. Lutts 10.08 

Name. Tons. 

Ida 7.77 

Ida Florence ■ 9. 61 

Ida May 11.62 

James D. Godfrey 15. 95 

James W. Nale 6.63 

James Howard . 11. 51 

Jacob B. Lee 6. 50 

Jesse L. Eutter 6. 24 

John P. Prifold 19.59 

J. Lippincott 10.33 

Joseph J. Dughan 6. 28 

Kate and Melissa .. 13. 73 

Kate and Sarah .- 15.29 

Laurel 15. 66 

Leader 7.84 

Leader 14.85 

LillieD 17.21 

Little Giant 9.03 

Little Harry 6.64 

Little Moses 5.70 

Linnet - 5.82 

Lizzie Liber 14.63 

LorellH. Sharp 7.85 

Lucy P 10.96 

Lucy 14.47 

Lucy Turner 16.27 

LydiaB 14.84 

Lydia and Sylva 15.83 

Lucy Hopkins 9.50 

M. P. Ogden 10.50 

M. and W. Robinson 13. 73 

Madora & Emma 8. 93 

Maggie D 9.85 

MaryE. Davis 7.39 

Magnolia 16. 97 

Mary A. Bickley 13.23 

Mary & Phebe 11.61 

Mary & Eliza 10.19 

Mary Ella 7.61 

Mary & Emma 19. 54 

Mary & Ellen 6.61 

M.ary Fans 6.76 

Maria & F'rancis 16.67 

Mary Ann 19. 55 

Martha R 7.89 

Martha C. Campbell 15. 25 

Margaret Hall 9.43 

Mattie Holly 8. 04 



Morris R. Lee. .. 


Nip Cat 

Northern Light 

Only Son 






R. D. Mitchell 





Richard Silsbee 


Rollin S 

Sarah Cox 

Sarah Jane 

Sarah Jane 

Sarah Sullivan 

Sarah & Hannah 

Sea Flower 

Samuel Hanners 

Sharp Shooter 

Spencer C 

Star of the West 

Star Light 




Trade Wind 


Thomas R. Berry . . . 

Two Friends 



United States 




War Eagle A. Brooks .. 
William B. Foster. .. 
William Stevenson.. 
William Vanuemau . 




16. .57 


10. 82 

6. 37 
16. 13 


19. 38 
12. 03 


16. 22 
18. 24 




16. 19 





16. 99 

10. C9 




Many of these vessels are old and of less value than they once were. They are all of remarkably pretty 
model, however, and completeness of equipment. Experts assured me, that for those over ten tons (of which there 
are 81) an average value of 8G00 would be a fair estimate. This would yield $48,000. Probably the sum of $30,000 
would cover the remainder. The discrepancy of 38 between this list and that of the oyster-association in the 
Delaware, described on a subsequent page, is due to the fact that many of the association vessels are registered 
elsewhere. Of boats less than five tons, and unregistered, there are probably 100 used in the district for oystering 
and clamming, and their value would add perhaps $20,000 to the figures above, making a total of nearly 8100,000 
invested in floating property by the Cape May and Delaware oystermen. 

Middle a:^d vicinity. — Next below the district represented by Mr. Watkins' statements, foregoing, comes 
the township named "Middle", where I happily supplemented my own observations by the intelligent statistics of 
Mr. Edward Hand. This district includes a great extent of sounds and thoroughfares upon its seaward shore, and 
there are also opportunities for oyster-growing along the western coast. The general characteristics of ground and 
methods of planting do not differ from those above. In this district there are enumerated about 83 planters, three- 
fourths of whom may be said to support their families in this way. This is more completely true than in Dennis 
township, because the business here is more extensive, takes more time, and yields larger results. 

The Bay shore is occupied by 14 planters, all of whom use exclusively southern oysters. They are brought as 
" seed " (small) almost entirely from Hog island, and (of somewhat better quality) from Chiucoteague. These men 
own ten sloops, of from 30 to CO tons burden each, which are used wholly in bringing oysters by the outside passage 
from the South, not only for their own use, but also to supjjly the men on the eastern shore and below them, and 
also to carry to Cape May or Philadelphia their own harvest, since the ocean-side meu ship their crop by rail. 

On the seashore nine-tenths of all the oysters raised are of small southern seed, the rest being plants secured 
in the marshes about home (only about 4,000 bushels of this will be saved a year all the way from Townsend's inlet 
to Cape May) and in Great Egg Harbor. It will be seen by this, that the planters of this district have a different 
idea of the profits in southern stock from those of Dennis. This arises from the fact, that they find their chief 
market in supplying the summer hotels and population of Cape May, and can sell an oyster of inferior quality to 
those raised in Dennis, all of which go to Philadelphia for "prime" trade. The argument of the "Middle" men 
is this : Last year (1879) we could buy Chesapeake seed at 18 cents, which became fit for market in two years. 
For northern seed, at the same time, we had to pay 42 cents first cost and freight, and had to wait three years for it 
to grow, all the time at the risk of destruction by ice. The selling-price of the two will not differ at the end in 
favor of the northern stock more than $1 25 a barrel. A glance shows how much more profit lies in the southern 
stock. One planter, a year ago, bought tolerably large southern seed at 38 cents a bushel. They are doing well, 
and he expects that eighteen months after putting them down he will sell them for $4 50 per barrel. Granting that 
he takes up as many bushels as he put down (highly probable), he will make $1 42 per bushel profit. 

Of the planters in this township — 

S6 sell a present average of 1,000 bushels a year 26, 000 

67 sell a present average of 250 bushels a year - 16,750 

Total annual crop 42,750 

The planters get $1 per bushel at the shore for their oysters this season, many selling on contracts previously 
made with shippers to take their whole crop. A. few send to market themselves. About one-fourth or one-third of 
this crop goes to Cape May ; the rest (chiefly from Delaware shore) is sent to Philadelphia. 

.Statistical recapitulation for I^Tew Jersey (ocean shore): 

Number of planters and shippers .- - - 855 

Extent of ground cultivated acres.. 1,300 

Value of shore-iiroperty - - - §"5, 000 

Number of vessels and sail-boats engaged -. G75 

Value of same, including small bo.ats, etc - - $270,000 

Number of men hired by planters and dealers 150 

Annual earnings of same .- -- --• S60, 000 

Total number of families supported 900 

Annual sales of — 

I. Native oysters bushels.. 250,000 

Value of "same 8250,000 

n. Chesapeake "plants" bushels.. 77,500 

Value of same SCO, 000 

Total value of oysters sold annually §310, 000 





Eakly history. — The oysters of Delaware bay were prized by the earliest settlers, and there are frequent 
allusions to this resource in the early narratives. Thomas Oampanius Holm, chaplain to Governor Printz, in 1642, 
for instance, mentions " vario'us kinds of shellfish, as oysters, lobsters, sea and land turtles, cockles and muscles ". 
Speaking of Delaware bay, more particularly, he says : 

There are oyster banks and an oyster strand all the way to Bomptie's Hook [now Bombay Hook] on both sides of the river; 
these oysters are so very large that the meat alone is of the size of our oysters, shell and all. 

Maueice cove: Topography and characteristics. — The center of the present oyster industry in the 
Delaware bay and river, on the New Jersey shore, is at Maurice cove, in Cumberland county, which is reached 
by the Cumberland and Maurice river raih-oad from Bridgeton. This shore is bordered all the way by extensive 
marshes, through which innumerable small creeks find their way from the interior, and which contain many open 
places called "ponds". Throughout these creeks and ponds, in the tide-ways and along the edges of the sedge- 
plats and islands, oysters have always grown in great profusion. In addition to this the bottom of the bay and of 
the Delaware river, from Cape May beach clear up to and a little above Cohansey point, at the southern end of 
Salem county, a distance of not less than 50 miles, is everywhere spotted with oyster-beds. The same is true of 
the opposite (western) shore, which will be considered in another chapter. These oyster-beds are not confined to 
the shallow waters near shore, or to the sedge-plats, but are apparently scattered over the whole bottom of the 
bay. Even the ship-channel, 90 fathoms deep, contains them, as experimental dragging shows. How this might 
have been a centiuy ago 1 Icnow not; but such is the present condition. In Watson^s Annah of Philadelphia, 1843, 
I find some interesting facts stated in regard to this district. Mr. Watson says : 

Having been at some pains to learn something of the present and past state of our oyster-beds in the bay, I have arrived at sundry 
conclusions, such as these: that our fields of oysters, notwithstanding their constant delivery, are actually on the increase, and have 
been augmenting in extent and quality for the last thirty and forty years. Tills fact, strange to the mind of many, is said to be 
imputable to the great use of the dredging-machines, which, by dragging over a greater surface, clears the beds of impediments, and trails 
the oysters beyond their natural position, and thus increases the boundaries of the field. These dredges are great iron rakes, attached to 
the vessel by iron chains, and which trail through the oyster-beds while the vessel is moving over them by the force of the wiud in her 
sails. In this way many more oysters are dragged and loosened from the mud than the rake wiU take up, and thus are left free to 
propagate another future supply. 

It is said to bea false kiuduess to oysters to let them alone, as they did in New York to their famous "Blue Points", by a protecting 
law, which served only to have them so covered with mud as to actually destroy them. 

An old oysterman informed me, as an instauce of the increase of oyster-beds, that he used to visit a little one, thirty years ago, of 
one to two hundred feet long, and growing, known as the new led. There is a field of size, also beds of size, oft' Benj. Davis' point, and 
Maurice river. New Jersey, and oft' Mahant's river, Delaware side. Since the formation of the Breakwater, lobsters and black-fish have 
come there in quantities. By and by we may expect much increase of them there. It is discovered to be a fact, in all the jjonds found 
in the sedge marshes lining the two shores of the Delaware, that in them are found the best oyster.-f, and that in one of them called the 
Ditch, which is an artificial canal cut into the marsh, fine oysters are always to be fished out. It has been remarked by my informant, 
and corroborated by others, that although oysters are found in salt-water, they will not bear to be removed to water which is Salter. 
Experiments have been made of hanging a basket of bay oysters over the vessel's side exposed to the Salter sea-water, and they have 
been found to die in twelve hours. Hence the necessity of planting them in waters less salt, or at least not Salter than their native beds. 
Those caught after a copious rain are said to be much finer than those taken from the same place before the rain. 

The oyster is of a tenacious nature, attaching its gelatinous substance to almost all bodies with which it comes in contact — such 
as wood, iron, or stone. When they are found attached to glass bottles, they are always found much fatter for it. 

Those who make a business of transplanting come early in the season, and carry them away in their boats to the inlond imtcrs 
about Egg Hiirbor, etc., from whence they are taken in the fall quite fat, and carried overland to the city market and sold as Egg 
Harbor oysters. 

Not all of this quotation may be wholly relevant, but there is so much in it that I have thought it no harm to 
give it all. 

Special legislation previous to 1856.— So important had the oyster-fisheries in this region become thirty 
years ago, that they were the subject of much special legislation, which appears in the revised statutes of 1850. 
These laws are substantially as follows : 

Section 1. Authorizes the board of chosen freeholders of Cumberland county to occupy for twenty years, for the use hereinafter stated, 
Maurice river cove within the following boundaries : "Beginning at low-water mark, directly opposite East point, in the township of 
Maurice river, Cumberland county, and running thence a south course to the main ship channel ; thence by a straight line to low-water 
mark, directly opposite to Egg Island point, in the township of Downe, in said county, and thence by low-water mark the several 
courses and distances of the shore bordering on the said cove, and covering the mouths of the several streams that empty into said cove, 
to the place of beginiiiug." But the "natural oyster-beds in Maurice river cove or Delaware b-iy, known severally as the East point 
beds, Andr(iws' ditch beds, the Pepper beds, and the Ballast beds, and the beds that fall bare at low tide, shall not be occupied for planting 
oysters, nor <lredged upon, nor shall oysters be taken from Ihe said beds, nor from any of the rivers or creeks of Cumberland county, for the 
purpose of planting (but all citizens of this state shall have free access to them to catch oysters for their own use)", under heji.vy 
penalties for violation. ' 

Sec. 2. Authorizes the board of chosen freeholders of Cumberland county to appoint one or more persons, holding ofiBce for one year, 
to stake off' the said cove and make a survey ami inai> of the slioics and laud covered witU water, a copy of which shall be filed in the 


cotinty clerk's office, and " to lay off and cause to be marked by stakes sncli sxibdivisions of said cove, not exceeding ten acres each, as in 
their discretion shall seem best designed to promote the planting aud growth of oysters; provuhcl, the navigation of said cove be in no 
wise obstructed thereby ; proruhd, that no person shall own more than ten acres, and no company more than thirty acres." 

Sec. 3. And it shall be lawfnl for the said commissioners, after subdividing the said cove, as aforesaid, to lease the same at public 
vendne to the highest hidders, for not less than one nor more than live years; the bidders sh.-dl in all cases be citizens of the state, and 
shall pay the sum bid annually daring the term of the lease. Upon the payment or securing the payment of this annual rent, the bidder 
shall be entitled to the exclusive use of the designated laud for the purpose of planting oysters during the term spccitied in the lease. 

Sec. 4. Makes the penalty for trespassing upon or removing oysters from the leased oyster-lots, without written permission of tho 
owner, liability to treble damages; for second offense fine not exceeding -SlOO, imiJrisonment for 60 days, or both. 

Skc. 5. Enjoins upon the commissioners the enforcing of penalties and forfeitures against non-resident offenders and the collection 
of rents due; after paying needful expenses and receiving compensation awarded by the board of chosen freeholders, the residue of money 
collected shall be applied to the public school fund. 

Sec. 6. The commissioners shall make an annual report, under oath, of their proceedings and money transactions. 

Sec. 7. Excepts all natnral beds from the oi)eration of this law, which took effect April 1, 1857. 


Sec. 8. Every boat or vessel lawfully catching, planting, and growing oysters on the flats and grounds of Delaware bay and Maurice 
river cove, adjoining the counties of Cumberland and Cape May, shall be assessed annually .$5 upon all boats and vessels not exceeding 
five tons, and .SI per ton, custom-house measurement, upon all boats and vessels exceeding ten tons. This assessment to be paid by tho 
master of the vessel to the collector of the oyster-fund, between March 1 and May 1 of each year. 

Skc. 9. Appoints 6. Coinpton special officer, to enforce the law, at a salary of .JIJOO per year. 

Sec. 10. Provides that the said special officer shall occupy an office at Port Norris, where complaints of the violation of the oyster- 
laws may be made. This officer m.ay " arrest any person or persons found stealing oysters in Maiirice river cove or Delaware bay, or from 
the banks in Maurice river, or in any of the rivers or creeks of Cumberl.and county; and any person or pensons convicted of such offense 
shall, for every bushel of oysters found in his or their possession, pay the sum of $1 50, and shall also, for every such offense, forfeit and 
pay the sum of |100. It shiill be the duty of all citizens, when called upon, to aid the special officer in making seizures or arrests, and 
any citizen, or captain, or couniiander of sail- or steam-vessel who refuses said aid shall pay |50 flue. 

Sec. 11. Appoints a collector of the oyster-fuud of Maurice river cove, who shall assess and collect all dues from vessels ; shall issue 
certified licenses, holding force for one year, to all captains of boats aud vessels who shall pay the taxes heretofore required, permitting 
them to engage in catching or planting oysters; shall refuse licenses to all boats or ve-ssels not complying with the conditions of this act; 
shall pay the salary and expenses incurred by the special oflScer ; and shall himself receive for this service 5 per centum of all moneys ho 

Sec. 12. The collector shall keep true records of his transactions, record all licenses, etc., and furnish bonds in |-i,000 for the faithful 
performance of these duties. 

Sec. 13. Every captain, upon taking out the beforementioned license, shall take oath that he will at all times diligently aid in the 
enforcement of the laws of New Jersey for the preservation of clams and oysters, and will promptly report to the special officer any 
knowledge of any vioLation of said laws: and any captain refusing to take out said license and m.ake said oath, shall forfeit his right to 
catch or plant oysters in Delaware bay or Maurice river cove, aud if found doing so shall incur the penalties of a trespasser as heretofore 

Sec. 14. The proceeds of all property seized and sold shall be paid to the collector for the benefit of the oyster-fund. (As a rule, 
one-half of all fines are similarly appropriated. ) 

Sec. 15. All persons growing oysters in Maurice river cove are authorized to meet annually on the first Tuesday of March, at Port 
Norris, and. having organized iuto a meeting, they may elect by ballot a special officer and a collector, to serve for one year ensuing, at a 
salary which miiy then be fixed ; and shall elect an auditing committee of five members, whose duty it shall be to examine and audit the 
accounts and vouchers of tho collector of the oyster-fund, .and report upon them at each annual meeting. This meeting is also authorized, 
by the consent of two-thirds of those present and entitled to vote, to raise a tax of $1 per ton per annum npon all boats of over five tons 
measurement, in addition to the tax heretofore imposed by this act ; said additional tax to be imposed for one year only at a time, and not 
to be continued except by consent of two-thirds of the voters at a subsequent meeting. 

Sec. 16. Whenever, at the end of a fiscal year, the oyster-fund, after expenses are paid, shall exceed 1-2,000, the collector .shall pay 
the same to the state treasurer, to be api^lied to the 8up))ort of the schools of the state. 

Sec. 17. Forbids catching oysters "in Maurice river cove, or on any planting-ground in Delaware bay", between sunset aud sunrise, 
under penalty of .$50. 

Sec. 18. Enacts that every boat or vessel lawfully catching or planting oysters in Delaware b.ay, to which a license is given (as 
heretofore), "shall wear in the middle of the mainsail, * * ' a number painted in black, 18 inches long, and to be designated by the 

Sec. 19. Superseded by act of 1880. 

Sec. 20. Makes it lawful for any ])erson who has been a resident of the state for six months to make a written application to the clerk 
of the court of common pleas of the county in this state, where the applicant resides, for a certificate setting forth that the applicant is a 
resident (as above), is not engaged in planting oysters or clams, but desires to rake shellfish within the i\aters of this state from the natural 
beds in Delaware bay, and designating the boat which he intends to make use of. 

Sec. 21. The clerk aforesaid having satisfied himself of tho truth of the applicant's statements, shall thereupon issue to him a 
certificate stating the facts .as above. 

Sec. 22. Upon presentation of this certificate to the oyster-fuud collector of Cumberland county, it shall be the duty of officer 
to issue to the applicant, without charge, except for fees, a license to gather clams, oysters, and shellfish upon the natural beds in Maurice 
river cove and Delaware bay, on board the boat named in the license. 

Sec. 23. Stipulates small fees. 

Sec. 24. Nothing herein shall affect the force of section 1 of the act of 1846. 

The otstermen's association : Special licenses.— TTnder thi.s law an a.ssociation of oystermen wa.s formed 

and is .still in existence. Each year the board of twelve director.*;, of whom Mr. Daniel Howell i.s president, fixes 

the rate of taxation npon the ve.s.sels.iu the association, which i.s deemed needfid to cover the exi) of the 
1(1 o ' 


association. The cliicf outlay and main object of the association and fund, is the providing of a watch boat and 
]iolicc crew, which shall watch the beds in the cove against thieves and arrest all boats that do not show, by a 
number in the middle of the mainsail, that they have a license. Last year (1S79) from 227 boats licensed, about 
$2,000 was collected by Mr. Benjamin Campbell, the collector at Port iSTorris. This year (1880) the fee is 50 cents 
per ton, custom-house measurement, and the total fees will amount to more than before, since 255 boats are akeady 

The license given by the association reads as follows : 

S2)eeial license, No. . 

By authority of the state of New Jersey : 

of county, state of New Jersey, having paid the sum of dollars, license is hereby granted to the 

said to catch, plant, and grow oysters in Delaware bay and Maurice river cove, in the state of New Jersey, one year from 

date, iu conformity with the provisions of an act of the legislature of New Jersey, entitled "An act for the better enforcement in Maurice 
river cove and Delaware bay of the act entitled ' An act for the preservation of clams and oysters', approved April fourteenth, eighteen 
hundred and forty-six, and the supplements thereto", which act was approved March tweuty-iirst, eighteen hundred and seventy-one. 

This license is to be used by the said as caiitaiu or commander of the called the , of , state of New Jersey, 

of tons burden, and numbered iu the middle of the mainsail. 

Given under my hand and seal of office, at this day of eighteen hundred and eighty . 

. [L. s.] 

Annexed to the counterpart of this license, which is filed in the office of the collector, is a printed oath, by 
which the captain swears that he will obey and help enforce the laws of the state for the protection of the oyster- 
fisheries, upon all occasions. 

The obligations of living up to these regulations are avoided by many irresponsible boat-owners, who, rather 
than pay the assessment and enter the association, prefer to take their chances of arrest, and forfeit whatever 
advantages the association may have to offer. The watch-boat is therefore kept busy looking after homo 
delinquents, rather than thieves from al)road. The captain of this watch-boat receives $130 a month pay, and 
liro\ides his own crew out of it. lie carries three to five men, but in case of any emergency calls upon anybody 
at hand to render help, and he is bound to obey. 

In the case of the oyster-boats controlled wholly at home, it is a general rule that the men go on shares. The 
vessel takes one-third of all receipts and the crew divide the rest, paying the captain's "grub bill" in addition. 
If each man makes $500 a year by this arrangement, he does very well. The crews are made up of residents of the 
state, at least of residents of six months' standing. When a crew is hired, the wages are from $20 to $40 a month 
and board. 

As usual, where the oyster-business has become of great dimensions and planting is carried on on a large scale, 
there are a number of persons who are, to a greater or less extent, deprived of real or imaginary benefits and 
privileges which they enjoyed under a more primitive condition of things. From the inclosed river and ponds, 
and also from the outside waters of the bay southward of Egg island, large numbers of large-sized and sweet 
oysters have always been taken and sent to market or peddled, through the neighborhood. When planting-beds 
wei'e so greatly increased in Maurice river cove, the shore people found that the diligent search for young oysters 
through the marshes, and the persistent dredging daring three-fom-ths of the year, were .sensibly diminishing the 
supply of marketable oysters attainable by the small open boats. Of these there are fifty or more owned along 
shore. They are too small to come under the association's tax ; do not belong to planters, but are owned by men 
who live near the shore, and gain a large part of their livelihood by tonging and hand-dredging. These people, 
owing to misfortune or improvidence, are too poor to plant ; but can do well if they are allowed to catch all the 
year round in the southern part of the bay, where all the oysters taken are of marketable size. For the protection 
of this class, therefore, against any possible rapacity of more fortunate and powerful neighbors, the legislature this 
year passed a law which gives general satisfaction. This makes it unlawful " to catch oysters from anj^ of the 
natural beds in Delaware bay, north of a line bearing southwest from the mouth of Sow and Pigs creek, in the 
county of Cumberland, from the last day of June in each year to the first day of April in the succeeding year, and 
no oysters shall be caught south of said line for the purpose of planting at any season of the year; and any person 
offending against either of the provisions of this section shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor". Punishments 
are a fine of $100, or imprisonment, with forfeiture of the craft and all its furniture. 

Oysters and oystering at Maurice cove. — A large part of the oysters sold from Maurice cove are of 
natural growth and do not become improved by transplanting. Many of them do not even require to be freshened 
on the "board-banks" before being taken to market. This is the case with those obtained oft' Egg island. These 
excellent wild oysters are dredged from all dei)ths, six to eight fathoms of line being the ordinary amount used, 
however. Successful dredging has been done, however, in all i)arts of the southern half of Delaware bay, even in 
mid-cliannel, where the water is more than 500 feet deep. This deep dredging is unprofitable, however, and not 
practiced; but that oysters exist there has been shown by experiment, as I was positively assured by Daniel T. 
Howell, esq., of Mauricetowu, who gave me many interesting notes upon this region. 

While the dredging for natural oysters can only be done by the large boats jjroperly fitted with improvcU 
windlasses and deep-water apparatus, large quantities of seed are furnished the planters from the creeks and 



marslies, by men wlio pick them np or tong tbem, using small boats. This seed varies according to locality. In 
Dividing creek and southward it is very jjoor, witli thin shells, and is used to l)e replanted in inclosed ponds. 
From the Maurice river and northward better seed is brought, and good, natural-growth oysters are tonged up and 
sold to wagoners, who peddle them through all the southwestern counties of the state at from 50 cents to $1 a 
bushel. One man in Mauricetown, who worked alone and in an open boat, is said to have sold between five and 
six thousand dollars' worth of this stock in a single season, recently. 

The limit of natural growth northward on the New Jersey shore of Delaware bay, is a little above Cohansey 
point. All along the shore ft'om here to Cape May the growth is solid, but out in the middle they grow in isolated 
patches. All the northernmost beds are useful only as seed, and the protective law hitherto quoted was made in 
the interest of about 1,000 fiimilies, who find their support in oystering along shore. This estimate of the number of 
families supported is probably too low, and is derived from a pretty exact estimate of the number of men employed 
in the vessels, obtained by the following survey: 

In planting on the Jersey shore of Delaware bay, or, in other words, in Maurice cove, it is entirely fair to 
estimate 300 boats engaged, since 255 are registered, and about fifty, under five tons, are regularly working 
unregistered, though all these do not plant, while there are several others of large size, which defy or neglect 
registration. Most of these 300 boats are of good model and excellent build, as has already been hinted. Some 
exceed 40 tons in burden, and an average value of $1,000, big and little, is not too high. This would give $300,000 
as the total worth of the fleet on the western shore. 

Now in i>lanting native seed in the spring, for no southern seed of consequence is put on the eastern shore, 
each of these 300 vessels will put down 20 deck loads of seed ; at 400 bushels to the deck load, this sums up 
24,000,000 as the amount planted, in 0,000 trips. 

These plauting operations, and the subsequent marketing of the crop, cause the em]iloyment in these 300 
vessels as crews, during ten months every year, of no less than 1,500 men, at five to each craft. All these are 
required bj' law to be citizens of New Jersey. They receive an average of $25 a month and board as wages ; and 
since it is impossible to separate those who work on shares, from those who accept a salary — something which is 
incessantly changing — it is safe to calculate as though all were hired. Fifteen hundred men at $25 a month, for 
ten months, gives the sum of $375,000 annually exijended as wages by the owners of the Maurice cove beds. In 
addition to this the board of the crews, at the rate of about $40 a month in each vessel, aggregates $120,000. The 
cost of repairs upon a vessel engaged in such a work as these are, and of their size, will be stated low at $300 a 
year for the first five or ten years ; I believe it to be more. At that rate $90,000 a year, in cash, is paid out for 
"running expenses". 

If you should ask one of these planters how his crop compares with the amount of seed he put down, probably 
you would be told he could not tell. From much study of the matter, I believe the following statement to represent 
nearly the truth : 

To bring the oysters raised on the Jersey shore of Delaware bay to market, each one of those 300 boats makes ten 
trips a season, and on each trip brings 500 bushels. This is an average estimate, but it is so far below the line of 
safety, in my opinion, that to the total I propose to add 17,000 bushels, in order to get a " round " figure. Multiplying 
3,000 trips (300 boats by 10) into 500 bushels a trip, gives 1,500,000 bushels as the total of oysters that are sent to 
the Philadelphia market by water from Maurice cove. By rail, as I have said, came 83,000 in 1879 ; but in 1880 
this was reported increased, and to it may be safely added 17,000, making au even 100,000, or 1,600,000 bushels as 
the total i)roduct. 

Now what is this worth? I have used, heretofore, in general calculations, a dollar as representing a bushel. 
It will hold from the Delaware capes to Boston. See how near an actual calculation brings it here. All the west 
Jersey oysters that go to market are either " primes" (first quality) or " cuUens" (second), and iu the ratio of one 
of the former to two of the latter. The ordinary price for cuUens has been 80 cents, and of i^rimes $1 50 ; adding and 
dividing gives $1,033 as the average value. This, remember, is the amount paid to the planters, and, cousequenlly, 
distributed to a great extent at home in New Jersey, but not wholly, for a large part of the ownership of the oysters 
is held in Philadelphia. Summarizing the foregoing produces the following tabulation : 

Number of vessels , 300 

Value of same $300,000 

Number of boats 800 

Number of men employed 1, fiOO 

Wages (§375,000) and board ($120,000) 8495,000 

Amount of seed planted bushels.. 2,400,000 

Amount of crop raised bushels.. 1,600, 000 

Value of same $1,600,000 

Amount of ground necessary acres ... 6, 000 

Probable actual value S50,000 

Western shore of Delaware bay. — Let us now cross over to the western shore of Delaware bay, which 
is equally suitable with the eastern, and has long been employed in planting oysters. The business now is on the 
increase, but it is chiefly in the hands of Phihuh^Jphia firms. 


The natural beds of oysters — "rock-oysters" is the local term — are confined practically to the sliore between the 
mouth of ]Mahou river and Bombay hook. Though formerly far more productive, probably, than now, it is from 
an area of little, if any, greater width that Philadelphia, and the states of Pennsylvania and Delaware generally, 
have always obtained their oysters. Not forgetting this great food-resource, in advertising the advantages of his 
colony, the astute William Penn wrote, in 1083 : 

Of f bell-fif h, we have oyfters, crabs, coccles, conchs, and mufcles ; fome oyfters fix inches long, and one fort of coccles as big as the 
ftewing oyfters. They make a rich hrotli. 

In Smith's Etstory of N'eic Jersey is quoted a manuscript from the British Museum, and written in 1669, which 

Two leagues from Cape Cornelius, on the west side of the river [the Delaware], near its mouth, there is a certain creek called the 
Hfpren Kill. » ♦ * There are two small islands in it. the first very .small, the last about half a league in circumference. • « » The 
two islands are surrounded with a muddy ground, iu which there grows the best sort of oysters, which said ground begins uear the first 
island, for the mouth of the channel has a sandy bottom, being also very deep, and therefore there are no oysters there. 

The locality of this is evidently Lewes-Town, at the mouth of the bay. Somewhat later, under date of October 
8, 1745, Kalm records that " the .shore of Penn.sylvauia has a great quantity of the finest oysters. * » * They 
come from that part of the shore which is near the mouth of the river Delaware". Three years later Kalm writes : 
Aged people • * * complained here [Philadelphia] and everywhere of the deoreafe of fif h. Old people afferted the fame iu 
regard to oyfters at New York ; for though they are ftill taken iu confiderable quantity, and are as big and as delicious as can be wifhed, 
yet all the oyfter-catchers owu that the number diminifhes greatly every year; the uroft natural caufe of it is probably the immoderate 
catching of them at all times of the year. 

Only portions of this bottom, which extend over about 16 miles, are now productive when dredged, however, 
and Capt. D. C. Montgomery, whose experience is very large, considers that 500 acres would probably cover the 
total area of " oyster-rock " in the whole distance. These beds are not now as productive as formerly, and are not 
s])reading to any extent. This is considered duo to the excessive working of them in both spring and fall, combined 
with absence of any dredging in early sttiumer. They are thus allowed to become covered ^vith drifted matter, and 
coated with slime for several weeks prior to the spawning season (July), and are thus in no condition to catch and 
save the floating youug. As a consequence the greater part of the northern-born seed used is imported from outside 
waters. South of a line drawn eastward from Mahon river the law (of 1871) recognizes no natural beds, "except 
such as may not be more than three feet below the surface at an ordinary low water". 

Delaware oystee-laws. — The laws regulating oyster and clam catching and cultivation on this Delaware 
shore arc voluminous, and I quote them with particular care, as annexed : 

State of Delaware— Digest of 1873— Cilvp. 55. 

Section 1. Forbids any person not a citizen of the state to take oysters or clams or terrapins in the waters of the bay without having 
n license, which license shall be granted at a cost of 150 by a county clerk of the peace, and shall be good for one year for the lioat named. 
Violation of this section shall be a misdemeanor, fined $jO, and the boat and tackle shall he detained for trial before any justice of the 
peace. Powers are given to sheriffs to seize, and penalties for resistance of process are decreed at length. 

Sec. 2. Makes it unlawful for any person not a citizen of the st.ate to take oysters, clams, or terrapins from any "river, creek, or pond 
withiu this state, and put them on board of any boat cr vessel not wholly belonging to and owned by citizens of this state". Penalties for 
viola! ioa as in section 1. 

Sec. 3. All oysters caught in any such river, creek, or pond (except Misspillion or Murderkill creeks), shall be culled at the place where 
they are caught ; and the young and refuse oysters there deposited. 

Sec. 4. Forbids taking away from any river, creek, or pond (except Delaware and Indian river), more than 20 bushels of oysters or 
clams at one time ; and no vessel iu any waters of this state shall be loaded from any vessels authorized by this section to carry 20 bushels 
or less. 

Sec. 5. It shall be unlawful for anj' person to t.ake oysters from any river, creek, or pond in this state, between Ajiril 30 and September 
1, or at auy lime to be planted anywhere else in or out of the state, or to use a dredge there. Violation incurs flues and confiscation of 
vehicle and oysters obtained. 

Sec. 6. Prohibits selling more than five bushels of oysters from Misspillion creek to be taken out of the state. 

Sec. 7. Any citizen of the state may ajjpropriate to his own use not exceeding an acre of bottom for planting oysters, and, having 
marked the same by stakes or other visible bouudaries, and planted oysters therein, it shall be unlawful for any other person to take 
oysters therein growing, under penalty of forfeiting .f 50 to the owner of such plantation. But no place shall be so appropriated where 
oysters are growing, or so as to impede navigation ; nor shall more than 40 feet square of Lewes creek be appropriated by any person. 

Sec. 8. Forbids laying out or bedding oysters on the flats, shore, or bank of any stream. 

Sec. 9. Protects terrapin eggs. 

Chap. 551. 

Section 1. Every person or company engaged in the business of opening oysters in this state for exportation, amounting to more than 
$500, shall take out a license. 

Sec 2. This license shall be granted by a clerk of the peace for |30, good for one year. 
Secs. 3 to 7. Instructions to officers, etc. 

Laws of 1871 — Chap. 9. 

Section 1. All oyster-plantations, not exceeding 15 acres, heretofore made in Delaware bay, shall be deemed the jiossessiou of the 
respective planters of tliem, and the oysters thereon shall be their private property, on condition that rent shall be paid as hereinafter 
provided, beginuing May 1, 1871. 


Sec. 9. Any person may appropriate not exceeding 15 acres of the free bottom of Delaware bay, sonth of Reedy island and west of 
Blake's channel, for planting oysters, which shall be properly designated by stakes. This ground, and the oysters planted thereon, .shall 
be private property. " But before any one shall avail himself of this privilege he shall api)ly, in writing, to the said collector for a license 
for that pnrx)ose, and pay to said collector the sum of .$-25 as the fee and price therefor, and also the sum of $'-i i)erton (cnstom-house 
measurement) for the vessel to be employed in the business of planting. The said license shall last only for one year. » » • jjjg 
privilege granted by this, and the ( .section, shall not embrace .any portion of the bottom which is a natural oy,ster-bed, and h-as been 
hitherto used and worked as such, nor shall it be extended beyond the more right to plant oysters and hold them as property." 

Sec. S. No person not a resident of the state, or a regularly licensed planter, shall dredge or otherwise take oysters from any public oyster- 
bed of this state ; penalty, 8100 for each day's otfense and forfeiture; of all boats and tackle. " The fee for license to dredge the public beds 
shall be S3 per ton (eustom-honse measurement), » » * but such license shall not be taken to authorize the planting of oysters." 

Sec. 4. "The dilTerent plautaiions shall be treated as numbered in the order in which the licenses to plaut are issued under this act 
and tlie boat or vessel used » » » shall wear that number painted in black, at least 18 inches long, in the middle of her mainsail." 
And also "shall wear, in the middle of her mainsail, a Roman letter iiainted in bl.ack, 18 inches long, to be designated in the license". 

Sec. 5. For the purjiose of protecting the oyster-beds in the l)ay, and those who plant oysters under this act, the collector of license-fees 
is in.structed to purchase or hire out of the money collected a suitable " watch-boat", manned by a captain and two men. She shall be 
employed night and day from March 1 to September 1, or longer, and may call upon any other boat's crew to help her as a poase comitatus, in 
the enforcement of this act against trespassers. The proceedings to be taken subsequent to arrest and upon conviction, with disposal of 
fines, are fully stated. 

Secs. 6, 7, 8. Instructions to captain of watch-boat as to powers and duties, and statement of form of proceedings against offenders, 
and penalties for those who resist the police. 

Sec. 9. Forbids ani/ one dredging in July or August, or on Sunday, or between sunset and sunrise. 

Sec. 10. Taking of oysters from another's j>lantations is designated to be larceny, and punished accordingly. 

Sec. 11. Forbids depositing oysters iu any streams in this state and taking them up in July or August, except with tongs. 

Sec. 12. An oath is required of every person taking out a license, that he will not violate or allow his vessel to be used in violation 
of this act. 

Sec. 13. A license applies to only one vessel, whoso name must be stated therein. 

Sec. 14. The governor shall furnish suitable liceuses in blank to the collector. 

Sec. 15. The collector shall be apjtointed by the governor of the state ; he shall take oath of office and give i>enal surety. 

.Sec. 1G. The duty of the collector shall be to enforce this act ; when so engaged the watch-boat shall be under his orders, and he is 
clothed with all needful powers. 

Sec. 17. Creates a new justice of the peace at Little Creek Landing, Kent county, specially to administer this law. 

Sec. 18. Compensation of collector fixed at 5 per cent, of moneys collected, not to exceed j!l,000 ; of captain of watch-boat, $80 per 
month ; and of crew, 5^40 per month each, they finding their own board, to be paid out of funds collected. 

Sec. 19. Moneys collected to be for the use of the state, except what is needed for expenses under the act. 

Sec. 20. Publication of the act. 

Sec. 21. In case of the use of a boat of only two tons burden, the license shall cost only $25. 

Laws of 1875. 

Section 1. Instructs all oyster-boats acting under Delaware laws not only to cease their opcnpation, but to bo taken " within the land " 
at or before sunset, and the captain of the watch-boat must enforce this. A signal for retiring shall be given from the watch-boat ; and 
when that is shown there shall be an end, until sunrise next day (not Sunday), of all work upon the oyster-plantations or upon the public 
beds. Such signal shall be the lowering of the watch-boat's flag. This flag shall be of navy-blue bunting, six feet Ijy four in length, 
with a diamond of white in the center, having a diameter of two feet between the points farthest apart. She shall always wear it at her 
maintopmast head during the working hours, aud she shall never leave the planting-grounds, but shall cruise up and down the same, if 
the wind will allow, except when she is compelled, by floating ice, severe stress of weather, accident, or want of repairs or supplies, from 
remaining in the bay, it being the design of passing this act, as it was of passing prior acts, that honest i)arties who jilant oysters under 
the shield of the state authority, shall be protected in the rights which were intended or are hereby meant to be secured to them; and 
that otl'enders against such authority shall be brought to condign punishment. 

Secs. 2, 3. Prescribes as penalties for violation of section 1, annulment of license, forfeiture of boat and equipment, and refusal of 
license for two years succeeding the offense. The exact method of procedure before the court, in executing trial and penalties, ia set 
forth at length. 

Sec. 4. Where a plantation license has been issued and a plantation appropriated, and the fee for any year is in arrear, no right to 
dredge or disjiose of said jilantation shall exist until all the liack fees are paid up, and no sale or disposal of an oyster-plantation, or right 
to dredge it, or plant upon it, shall be valid until first approved by the collector, who shall not give his approval if, in his judgment, it 
will be prejudicial to the interests of the state, or of i)lanters whose i^lantations lie in the neighborhood. 

Sec. 5. No boat whatever shall be allowed to work, until her owner has complied with the law in regard to wearing lier number, of 
legal dimeusions, upon her mainsail; and if she attempt to do so she shall be seized by the collector or captain of the watch-boat, and 
held until her number is painted upon her sail. 

Sec. G. It shall be the duty of the person for the time being in charge of the watch-boat, to report at once to the collector all 
violations * » • ^ amX a failure to do so shall be a forfeiture of any wages that may be due him; and further, he shall not be allowed 
any longer to have charge of the watch-boat, and his place therein shall be vacant • • « The possession or having the care and 

management of any oyster-boat shall, for the purposes of this act, be deemed and taken to be conclusive proof of ownership » » * ^ and 
all persons on board of her at the time of sach violation, shall be deemed and taken to be principal offenders, and be dealt with 

Sec. 7. It shall be the duty of the collector and the captain of the watch-boat to see that the name of any boat employed in planting 
or dredging for oysters, is plainly painted on her stern, and failure to do this, or a concealment of the name, shall be punished by annulment 
of license and a refusiil of license ever after. 

Sec. 8. It shall be the further duty of the collector and captain to ascertain, at least once every month, and keep a record thereof, 
the name of the owner of every boat employed in the oyster-business, and those on botird of her shall give it to him, and the name given 
shall be taken to be the true name of such (iwuer, who shall be held * » » an accessory before the fact to any violation * * * of 
this or the aforesaid acts, and liable accordingly. In case refusal be made to the name of the owner, or there should be reason to 
believe that the true n«me is not given, it shall be the duty of those officers, respectively, to immediately take the boat ils'elf into his 


custody, and dotain lier until the proper and right name be furnished ; and to that end he shall have power to call upon and rofjuire, as ho 
may in every other case of necessity, the sheriti' of the county to aid hiui, which sherili' may employ any force or means whatever for that 

Secs. 9 and 10. No license to plant oysters shall be granted, until the applicant shall furnish tho collector with a statement of the 
boat or boats to be employed by him iu the business, giving separate name and tonnage, and the name of the owner and the persons who 
are to work her. 

Sue. 11. The state treasurer shall require from tho collector * * * information, on the first day of June and September, of each 
year, of the names and residences of all persons having license to plant oysters or dredge for them, and tho names of tho boats used in 
the business. 

8e€. 12. When the captain of the watch-boat has knowledge of a violation of any of tho provisions of this, or the other acts with 
which this is connected, he shall proceed immediately to seize the boat or boats employed in .such violation, and hold her or them iu his 
custody, until the collector has proceeded to enforce the provisions of this and tho other of said acts. 

Sec. 13. Neither the captain of the wateh-boat, nor any of her crew, .shall receive any pay lor time not actually and actively spent 
in the discharge of the duties required by this act, and the act to which this is a sui)plemeut, but such time shall bo deducted iu the 
computation of their wages. 

Sec. 14. The captain and crew of the watch-boat shall be practical seamen, and part of their duty shall be to keep the boat, her 
apparel, tackle, and fiuniture, iu good repair and condition, and this without extra charge ; and no repairs involving extra expense, shall 
be made without the concurrence of both the collector and captain, and then onlj' such as are authorized by law. 

Sec. 15. The collector shall issue no license, nor permit .iny boat to dredge, until the price or fee for said license has been actually 
paid, and the collector violating this provision shall not only be responsible for said license fee, but shall, in addition thereto, forfeit a 
like sum to the state. 

Sec. 16. The collector shall keep a true, accurate list of all licenses issued by him, giving the name of every boat and captain 
thereof, respectively, with the. amount paid for each license, which list ho shall publish in at least one newspaper in Dover, the first week 
in April and October each year. 

Sec. 17. The collector shall keep a separate account, in the Farmers' bank at Dover, of all moneys received by him for license issued, 
and shall deposit weekly all moneys received by him therefor; and all disbursements which he is, or may be, authorized by law to make, 
shall be by checks drawn on said fund in his oflicial capacity. 

Sec. 18. When the boundary stakes required by the act to which this is a supplement, have once been set, it shall be neither a defense 
nor excuse for auy person prosecuted for a violation of any of the provisions of this act, or the act to which this is a supplement, that they 
were not standing or visible at the time the alleged oft'ense was committed ; but if the person accused be proved to have taken oysters 
anywhere but on his own ground, he may be properly convicted. 

Sec. 19. Eepeals section 6 of chapter 363, laws of 1873. 

Sec. 20. The sum of 15300 is to be set apart annually, from the oyster- fund of Kent county, to the improvement of certain roads along 
the shore. "And in order to facilitate such improvement, it shall be the duty of all oystermen to land and deposit their oyster-shells on 
shore, at some convenient place to said road, so that they may be used in said rei)airs, and it shall be uulawfnl to empty or throw such 
shells into the water, unless the distance from the place shall be so great as to make it unreasonable to laud and deposit them as aforesaid, 
of which unreasonableness the collector and road-overseer shall concurrently be the judges." 

Sec. 21. The foregoing act to be printed and distributed to owners of boats. 

Under the operation of laws there were regi.stered, iu 1879, 62 boats. The proceed.s of their license-fees 
amounted to $.5,.324. The statistics for 1880 were not available iu time for this writing, but will uot greatly differ 
from those of the previous year. Many of the boats take out a dredging-liceuse only, and do not pay the extra $25 
which entitles them to plant. Oat of the whole 02 boats, only six or eight belong at Little Creek Laiuling, the 
headquarters of the ntitive oyster-busiuess, and probably there are not more than a dozen sail-boats, employing 50 
citizens, in all Delaware, owned and engagrd in the shellfisheries, the remainder belonging at Philadelphia aud 
elsewhere. To a great extent, therefore, this trade is operated out of the same capital, by the same men, and 
contributes to the same total means of support, as the West Jersey planting. 

Oyster-planting: West shore of Delaware bay. — The western shore of Delaware bay is the great 
scene of plauting the southern oysters, which are brought annually from the Chesapeake and intended for the 
Philadelphia maiket ; but, for the present, I will pass by this, and conline myself to an account of the less important 
business of raising northern oysters from native seed. 

As no work is done during summer, tbe oysterman's year of labor begins on the 1st of September. It is in the 
fall that he procures nearly all the native seed that he projjoses to plant, and his time is very fally occupied at that 
season. Though continual dredging is pursued on the home-beds where natural oysters grow, by no means 
sufficient seed is gathered there to supply the demand along this shore. I was informed that the inshore creek 
beds along tbe coast of the state furnished last year about 40,000 bushels of seed, which would count 800 to tho 
bushel. The off-shore beds, in the deeper waters of the bay, but within state limits, yielded about 170 000. In 
addition to this, there were planted about 100,01)0 bushels of seed that grew on the New Jersey side of the bay, the 
procuring of wLich, and sale by the Jerseymen, was an evasion of the New Jersey law, and was managed in this way: 
The New Jersey law prohibits talung any seed from her beds to be planted outside of tbe state. The Jerseymen, 
therefore, get a cargo of small oysters or half-culled drtdgings, and take it to the general market iu Philadelpliia. 
If a buyer takes their cargo at a sati.sfactory price, it is regarded as no part of their business to inquire what he 
proposes to do with it ; nor can there be urged any valid technical objection to this proceeding, since the law does 
uot define what kind or size or condition of oysters shall be sold ; or that oysters sold iu open market shall uot be 
repliinted by the buyer, if he chooses, outside the state. So long as he is not a resident of New Jersey, the law 
can of course exercise no control over his actions iu such a matter. This evasion, and its method, are perfectly well 
understood by everybody concerned, and if there is a way to put a stop to it — the extreme desirability of \\hich 



does not appear — do oue exerts himself to do so. Another method iu vogue, is, for the regularly licensed boat 
aud crew of some man, who wishes to plant on the Delaware shore, to run out with the day's dredgings and, 
under cover of night, transfer the deck-load to some old schooner chartered in the Chesapeake or elsewhere out of 
this region, for the purpose. The ostensible purpose, if discovered, is merely the trade iu these oysters, but really 
she runs across to the western shore, and lias thrown over her load before daylight, and returns the next night for 
a second venture iu blockade-run uing. The courts aud the sentinels are very vigilant and strict, however, and 
every now and then some of the Philadelphia men or some of the Jerseymen themselves are arrested and fined. It 
is a widespread opiuion, however, that some of the provisions of the New Jersey law are unconstitutional, being 
violations of inter-state comity, aud an attempt at jurisdiction beyond the state's limits of power. The plea in 
defense is, that when New Jersey entered the Union she relinquished none of the old colouial rights reserved to her 
under the king's charter. It is not my iuteutiou to discuss this matter, which remains to be decided some day by 
the Supreme Court of the United States. 

The Delaware, or "western shore" planting-grounds, lie chiefly opposite the central part of the state, the 
villages of Little Creek Landing and Mahon's Ditch, close to Dover, being the homes of most of the oystermen. 
There is some desullory catching in Indian river at the southern extremity of the state, but of little consequence. 
The beds are chiefly so near shore as to be iu less than 10 feet depth of water, though some are as deep as 15 feet 
at low tide. Various sorts of bottom occur, but stiff mud is preferred. Iu the course of a dozen years' planting 
on such a spot, the mud, by accumulation of shells aud refuse, is converted into a solid surface. It thus is made 
suitable for the deposit of spawn and the growth of young oysters, which, proceeding continuously, replaces the 
formerly barren bottom with a genuine natural bed or "oyster-rock". The title to the plot is 'not disputed, 
however, as it wouM be in some districts, because of this change, and the ground becomes extremelj' valuable, 
since it forms a natural nursery for the farm. 

It is the custom to allow all northern seed to lie over two winters before sending to market. There are 
occa-ional exceptions, but to dispose of a native bed at the end of a single year's growth is generally condemned, 
and with wisdom. Under this arrangement, however, a large part of the plantatiou must lie idle every alternate 
year ; and in view of this, many of the Delaware men com])lain that the limit of 15 acres, defined by the state-law 
as the size of a single fiirm, is too small. It may be, considering the fact that, as I was assured, all the farms are 
cultivated at present up to their full capacity. The growth of the business may now properly call for au 
enlargement of the privileged holdings. 

Taking vp oysters: Season and "Siethods. — The season for taking the crop opens in September, and 
produces from Delaware waters from five to ten thousand bushels annually of natural growth, large sized, 
marketable oysters, but these are not always kept separate iu shipment from the planted stock. In taking up 
the jjlauted beds of northern oysters, it is calculated that they shall yield, at the least, au equal measure to the 
amount of seed put down. By count, however, there will not be more than half as many, showing that 50 per 
cent, of the blisters pei-ish. The profit, then, is almost wholly on the growth ; but as, after from eighteen months 
to two years' waiting, the stock which cost, i)ut down, say 25 cents, sells, bushel for bushel, at from 75 cents td 
$1 25, the return is a very fair one. It is not always, however, that as much (by measure) comes up as goes down, 
and I have estimated my total accordingly, at a deduction. 

In the process of taking up a bed of oysters, here, each dredgeful is culled immediately on board, and all the 
" trash", that is, undersized oysters, shells, and refuse is saved, and at the end of the dredging is taken to the "idle- 
ground", w'here a field of seed is growing, and emptied upon it. Much of this trash is alive aud will mature. 
When, six months (or perhaps not until eighteen months) later, this idle-ground is overhauled and culled out for 
market, it will be found to have been considerably reinforced by the " trash". A second good effect of this system 
is, that it thoroughly scrapes clean the ground from which the season's salable crop is gathered — an advantage not 
to be lightly estimated. 

The season ends about jMay 1, when the sloops cease taking any more cargoes to market, for lack of stock to 
carry. It is needless to say that nothing but occasional lots, by express, goes fi-om this coast to Philadelphia by 

In accordance with the law, a watch-boat, in the shape of a fast schooner, once a pleasure yacht, aud hence 
comfortably fitted up, patrols the beds every day and at night, whenever any danger is expected, but ordinarily 
comes into dock at Mahon's ditch each evening. 

A resume of the facts given above, in regard to the planting of native oysters on the shores of the state of 
Delaware, is as follows : 

Location of beds ofi" Little Creek landing. 

Source of seed, l)oth shores of Delaware bay. 

Market, Philadelphia. 

Price, 80 cents to $1 50 per bushel. 

Number of vessels (partially) engaged, Go. 

Number of bushels " natural growth" sold, 5,000. 

Number of bushels " northern plants ", about 300,000. 


Ene^iies AjS^D DISASTERS. — The only euemy of consequence on these beds, seems to be the small boring-snails, 
chiefly Urosulpinx, to which I have already frequently referred. The overhauling of the whole farm once every two 
or three years ought to gi\e ample opjiortunity to keep this pest well in check, if sufficient care is taken to pick 
out the borers of every kind and carry them ashore. Incessant attention to this, for a few years, by all the planters, 
would practically extirpate an enemj" which is likely at any time to become extremely destructive. 

Starfishes are unknown here, and conchs not regarded as anything to be specially apprehended. There are 
several fishes, however, allied to the weakfish and the drumfish, which at intervals make a raid on the beds and do 
much havoc. Occasional gales from the southeast also drift the mud injuriously. 

A strange manifestation in September, on these beds, is the abundance of what is known to the fishermen as 
" sea-grapes", and which seems to be the clustered egg-cases of some one or more species of squid. For a few days, 
at the beginning of the season, these clusters of eggs so cram the dredges as to interfere with and delay the work. 
Moreover, a hard storm, or even the disturbance made by the movement of the dredge, causes them to rise to the 
surface, so buoyant are they, and to float away, carrying with them the oysters to which they were attached. 
Considerable loss is thus occasioned at times. Otherwise they do no harm to the moUusks, so far as I know. 

This shore is exposed to a long sweep of the winds and is wholly unsheltered. Gales, formidable enough to stir 
up the deep water in which the oysters are laid, are therefore liable to work great mischief. This is most likely to 
occur in the autumn. For example, in the latter part of October, 1878, a great storm destroyed many thousands of 
bushels by drifting them ofl" the beds, or burying them under a bank of sand or sheet of mud. So violent was this 
gale, that 27 oyster- vessels went ashore at Mahon's ditch alone, and several of them were set high and dry upon the 
marshes. Most of these could be relaunched by making a canal from their involuntary dry-dock ; but one or two 
never could be got back to the water without more expense than they were worth, and were therefore dismantled 
and left to decay. 

Planting southern oysters in Delaware bay. — There remains now to be considered the great business 
of transplanting and maturing southern oysters in the waters off this shore. Though this stock is chiefly owned 
in Philadelphia and operated by Pennsylvauians, yet its consideration belongs projierly here, since the beds are 
wholly in Delaware's waters. 

The statistics I give in respect to this, were furnished me chiefly bj' Mr. J. C. Cleaver, collector of the 
Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Company at Chesapeake City, Maryland, and refer to the last half of 1879 and 
the first months of 1880, completing au "oyster-season". 

All the southern oysters which are brought to Delaware bay or to Philadelphia, both for planting and for 
immediate consumption, come through this canal, which leads from the Chesapeake. There may i)0ssibly be half 
a dozen outside trips made (all from Chincoteague island), in the course of the year, but this is a small exception. 

The vessels, as a rule, engaged in this traflBc are " wood-droggers", schooners of light draught, and able to carry 
from 500 to 1,500 bushels. During the planting season they will average about 1,300 bushels per load, but when 
running direct to market, in winter, carr3' only 900 bushels, the diflerence arising largely from an absence of any 
'deck-load in the latter case. The number of schooners thus used varies from year to year ; but the number of 
trips during the season reported upon by Mr. Cleaver, was 8G8. At $100 a trip, charter-pay, these schooners earned 
that year, therefore, §86,800. Sometimes an even $100 is given to make the trip, and sometimes a rate of about 
$10 a day is paid, but it amounts substantially to the same thing. lu addition, the chartei'er pays the canal 
expenses, consisting of entrance-toll, towage, and dues of 85 cents a ton on cargo, amounting in all to about $50. 
The canal thus receives an annual revenue from this source of about $4,340. 

The schooners range in value from $1,000 to $0,000. The owners i)ay the cajitain of such a schooner, who must 
know all the little creeks and oyster-buying nooks along the whole Chesapeake coast, and be a capable man at a 
bargiiin for his employers, about $50 per mouth. The men in the crews get $25. The provisions supplied by the 
owners are said to be abundant and of good quality. 

Among this fleet are about twenty-five " role captains ", who own their vessels entirely, hire their own crew, 
get cargoes from the south with their own money, and plant on beds claimed and prepared by themselves. 
Attending to their plantations personally, they bring their cargoes to the market in the fall in their own schooners 
or sloops, and leave them to be sold there on commission. They are thus both [flanters and carriers. 

During the fall and winter months most, if not all, of the vessels go directly to the Philadelphia market, 
and their cargoes enter into the inunediate consumption of the city. Sales aie made from the hull of the schooner, 
without unloading into a warehouse. The number of trips made for this direct market consumption, makes only 
about one-fourth of the total recorded as passing through the canal. Three-fourths of the oysters brought out of 
the Chesapeake are intended to be planted, and find their destination in the beds along the western shore of the 
bay. The large dimensions of these receipts appear in the succeeding table from the Canal Company's books : 



Eecoed of oystebs in shell which passed through the Chesapeake canal in 1879-'80. 

During months — 







November . 
December . 

January . . 
February . 




From Virginia 


10, 200 
10, 800 



36, 400 

166, 400 

267. 760 

From Maryland 

ire, 720 
30, 960 

lii, 120 
43, 200 

33, 120 

145, 600 
166, 400 

651, 840 


158, 400 
38, 700 

18, 900 
51, 300 
54, OCO 


56, 700 

182, 000 

332, 800 

939, 600 

Number of oys- 












Maryland waters . 
Virginia waters . - . 

For planting. 

488, 880 
215, 820 

For Philadelphia 
and other markets. 

162, 960 
71, 940 

The planting of this 700,000 and more bushels of Chesapeake seed, is not attended with any features greatly 
different from the same iudastry and investment at Fairhaven or Staten Island. When a load of oysters for 
](lanting arrives from the South, the owner of the cargo sends on board the vessel all the men he has, and the 
schooner then sails back and forth aroiiiid and over the designated ground. The effort in loading is to have as 
much as possible of the cargo on deck. It is an easy matter, then, as the vessel proceeds, to shovel overboard ; 
and as she is constantly changing her position, and the men shovel uninterruptedly until the whole load is 
overboard, the oysters are pretty evenlj' distributed. An ordinary crew of five will thus unload 400 bushels in an 
hour, for five or six hours in succession. Adding this expense to his first cost and charges, a planter, who j^uts 
down large quantities, expects the cost of his various lots of oysters, big and little together, will average about 
25 cents a bushel. 

These Chesapeake oysters, it is scarcely necessary to say, are left down only until the succeeding fjill, before 
being taken up for market. They have then grown into larger and fuller proportions, and have assumed a far 
better flavor than they originally possessed. Sometimes accident or circumstances will cause a bed, or a portion 
of it, to be saved through the winter and not harvested until the second fall ; but this is rare, very risky, and not 
attended by a large increase of profits. Making a recapitulation of the western shore produce, I derive the 
succeeding particulars : 

Statistical recapitulation for western shore of Delaware bay: 

Extent of natural "oyster-rock" acres.. 500 

Extent of cultivated ground, .about acres.. 3,000 

Number of plantens, not counted elsewhere 40 

Number of men employed, about 625 

Earnings .and board $117,000 

Number of men partially employed 400 

Earnings of same |30, 000 

Number of trips made after southern seed, about 620 

Freight earned by same f;62, 000 

Canal charges on same $;5I,000 

Southern seed planted bushels.. 704,700 

Cost of same, about |17C, 175 

Northern seed planted bushels.. 370,000 of same, about |1,5(», 000 

Southern oysters sold annually bushels.. 650,000 

Value of same §500,000 

Northern oysters sold bushels. - 300,000 

Value of same $325,000 

Total statistical recapitulation for Delaware bay: 

Number of planters, ^vholes,ale dealers, and shippers 350 

Extent of ground cultivated acres.. 9,000 

Value of same, about $15,000 

Value of shore-property $123,500 

Number of vessels and sail-lioats permanently engaged 1, 305 

Value of same $350,000 


Number of vessels partially engaged 100 

Number of men hired by planters or dealers 1,915 

Annual earnings of same $614,000 

Number of sailors employed on Chesapeake vessels 400 

Annual earnings of same $30, 000 

Total number of families supported, about 2,000 

Annual sales ot^ — 

I. Native oysters bushels.. 1,900,000 

Value of same $1,925,000 

II. Chesapeake "plants" bushels.. (i.00, 000 

Value of same $500,000 

Total value of oysters sold annually $2,425,000 



Philadelphia as an otstee -center. — It will ali-eacly have impressed itself upon the mind of the reader, 
that this whole region is dependent ni)on Philadelphia for its market, and hence, for a large i^art f)f the capital 
employed in carrying on the daily operations of the business. The city of Philadelphia, therefore, takes a 
prominent position as an oyster-center, and deserves a careful survey. Yet here, more even than in New York, is 
the business centered and compact ; or else it acts simply as a silent partner — a power behind the throne — iu so 
many operations that have already been described in the review of Delaware bay, that little remains to be said 
except barren statistics condensed into small space. 

The region directly tributary to Philadelphia as a marketing point, extends from Barnegat around to and 
including the whole of Delaware bay ; and it yields two millions and a half bushels annuallj", one quarter of which, 
probably, are transplanted from the Chesapeake seed-grounds. 

Transpoetation and its statistics. — The transportation to the city from New York and the Atlantic 
coast of New Jersey is by rail, as also to some extent from the Delaware bay shore of the same state. This supply 
is carried almost whoUy by three railways, the various sub lines of the Pennsylvania cori)oration, the New Jersey 
Central, and the Philadelphia and Atlantic City narrow-guage road. Railway statistics, in all cases, were given 
me without hesitation by officers of the roads. The combined receipts reported by these roads for 1870-80, from 
New York and New Jersey, amounts to nearly 300,000 bushels, counting somewhere near 70,000,000 oysters. These 
cargoes weighed over 12,000,000 pounds, and gave an income to the roads aggregating over $27,000. By steamers 
from Baltimore, Norfolk, and Chesapeake landings, there were brought nearly 20,000 busliels, or perhaps 0,000,000 
oysters, while the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore railway eclipsed all other lines, by reporting receipts 
for Philadelphia (including Southwark and Gray's Ferry) of 182,980 bushels in shell, and 70,000 gallons of shucked 
oysters. For these figTires I am indebted to Mr. Charles K. Ide, master of transportation. Adding these two 
sums, on the basis that a gallon is equal to a bushel, and that each wiU contain (of such stock as this road 
transports) an average of 300 oysters, we find that 71,000,000 oysters is the number annually brought .to the city, 
by this line alone, every year. The net revenue derived from this freight iu 1879-80, by this road, approached 
$30,000, while as much more accrued to its treasury from other carriage of oysters not coming within the scope of 
the present inquiry. 

Coming by sail-vessel from the eastern shore of Delaware bay, I find about one and a half million bushels 
yeai'ly, while the western shore of the bay produces nearly another million bushels, a large i>art of which are 
southern oysters transplanted to those beds. Lastly, in winter, about 250,000 bushels are taken by sailing-vessels 
through the canal from the Chesapeake to Philadelphia, for immediate use. A summation of the supplies from 
all these sources gives as the total quantity annually handled in Philadelphia, as shown by the statistics of 1879 
and 1880, to be in the close neighborhood of 2,680,000 bushels, or more than 800,000,000 oysters, worth, iu round 
numbers, not less than 82,500,000 at wholesale. 

Distributing trade. — But, of course, only a portion of these oysters are consumed within the limits of the 
city of Philadelphia. A large part is distributed widely throughout a region which includes the Delaware valley, 
the state of Pennsylvania, and to some extent the West, where Philadelphia competes in the shell-trade with New 
York and Baltimore. The Pennsylvania railway, for instance, reports that nearly 60,000 bushels went to Pittsburgh 
and intermediate stations, in 1879. Pittsburgh becouies, thus, a distributing point for its neighborhood, augmenting 
this stock by large receipts from Baltimore and New York. Philadelijliia sends to New York and intermediate 
points, by the same railway, more than 100,000 bushels, and Camden distributes ten or fifteen thousand bushels iu 
western New Jersey. There remains the draught made by the express couq)anies and various railroads, from whom 
there is no report. To have ascertained, with couq)lete exactness, the proportion of this two and a half millions of 
bushels which is sent out again, and consequently the proporlion which is left to be consumed here, would have 
required weeks of time and needless trouble. But from all that I can gather in the way of data, I believe that tho 
city of Philadelphia and its large suburbs, which together contain 1,000,000 people, will cousume auuually an equal 


mimber of bushels or gallons, counting 300,000,000 oysters. This would require each inhabitant to eat about six 
per week the year round, or a dozen jier week for half the year. A single "slew" would include this number ; and 
for the few who would not find ui)on their tables one mess of stewed or otherwise cooked oysters in a week, I believe 
there are many who would see them in some shape every other day for six or eighl months, especially among the 
working classes. 

Efforts at Packijjg: Shucking: Shipping. — It has been found that the extraordinary advantage which 
Baltimore enjoys in that direction, has made it useless for Philadelphia to attempt to compete in the packing-trade. 
The few attempts that have been made have all met with ill-success. Some fresh oysters are canned here, however, 
and sent out, chielly to near neighborhoods. There is not enough of this done, however, to furnish employment to 
more than 50 shuckers among the whole shipping-trade of the city. These are mostly whites, and perhaps half of 
them are married. They come from the most ignorant laborers, and are reckless in beha\ ior. Some are hired by 
the week at $10, others prefer to work by the piece, and receive 60 cents a thousand. 

The fresh oysters shipped are sent mainly in wooden " buckets" of variable capacity, but often holding several 
gallons, a large piece of ice being thrown into the oysters and the cover locked. 

In addition to this there is some shipping of Maryland stock, opened at Seaford, Crisfield, etc., in sealed tins. 
These are square c^ins, holding- one or two " quarts ", but the measure is somewliat short. They are filled with 
four-fifths of solid oysters and one-flfth pure water. A " case" of these cans may hold two or four dozen. The 
cans are not manufactured in Philadelphia, but in Baltimore, where the large local demand' enables them to be 
made from one-half to three-fourths of a cent cheaiier than elsewhere. 

Wholesale trade. — The total wholesale trade of Philadelphia is now divided, so far as can be ascertained, 
among about 50 firms, which, if all dealt alike, would give to each a business of about $G0,000 yearly. Of course 
there is no such equality. Most of these dealers are also planters, furnishing the capital with which their boats, 
registered in New' Jersey and Delaware waters, and manned by crews, residents of those states, plant upon ground 
outside of Pennsylvania's waters, and consequently held iu some other name than that of their actual owners and 
operators. A large part of all the floating and shore-property credited to the shores of Delaware bay, and estimated 
in the preceding chapter, is really owned, therefore, iu Philadelphia. To separate from this inter-state and 
partnership aggregate the capital invested by the oyster-dealers of Philadelphia, becomes as great a problem, 
therefore, as in New York. Some elements for the calculation appear in the following items : 

Value of wharf-property devoted to oyster- vessels, exclusively, about $400,000 

Value of shells and shore-property 100,000 

Value of perhaps SoO vessels, etc 300. 000 

Floating capital 400,000 

But all these are hardly more than guesses, and it is out of the question, under the circumstances, to separate 
the oysters idanted by Philadelphia capital from those outside of it, I suppose. It is perhajjS safe to say, roundly, 
that in the city of Philadelphia a million dollars are concerned in the oyster-business, outside of the estimates of 
values already credited to New Jersey and Delaware. Of this sum about $-100,000 consists of outstanding credits 
and the baidc balances needful to be maintained by the dealers. 

The fifty firms represent about 75 members. Each may be said to employ an average of five men as clerks, 
teamsters, and porters, amounting to 250 in all. To this again must be added the 50 shuckers heretofore spoken 
of, making a total of 375 men, representing from 300 to 350 families, finding their supi)ort out of the wholesale 
handling of oysters alone in the city. 

Eetail trade. — As to the number supjiorted by the retail trade, that can be approximated with even less 
exactness. The latest business directory of the city gives: hotels, 150; oyster-houses, 370; restaiu-ants, 441; 
lager beer saloons, 1,452. 

Supposing we say, that in order to meet the demands of the guests for oysters, cooked or raw, these establish- 
ments find it necessary to emi^loy extra help as follows : 

150 hotels, 2 persons each 300 

37(i oyster-houses, 5 persons each 1,880 

441 restaurants, 1 person each 441 

1,452 lager beer saloons, one-half person e.ach - 721 

Total 3,342 

Add peddlers aud curbstone-stands, 158 158 

3, r,oo 
Many of these 3, .500 persons are women and children, some of whom, nevertheless, assist in supjiorting others 
than themselves. In other cases various duties are combined with the service of oysters. But I think it within 
bounds to estimate 3,000 families maintained by this retail industry. 

Dealings in oysters in Philadelphia are chielly carried on at the foot of Spruce street, at the foot of Vine street, 
and at the Brown street wharves. In each case the locality is determined by the presence of a large provision- 
market, and the business in general fishing centers near it. At Brown street there is an association of the owners 
of boats selling there for mutual protection on questions of wharfage and the like. Most of the business is done at 
Spruce street, where the Jersey boats chiefly go, aud where some of the heaviest dealers have their offices. 


Statistical eecapittjlation for Philadelphia: 

Number of planters, wholesale dealers, and shippers 75 

Value of shore-property |100, 000 

Number of vessels and sail-boats engaged (registered in other States) 250 

Number of men hired by planters or dealers 250 

Annual earnings of same $150,000 

Number of restaurant servants, etc 3, 500 

Annual earnings of same |1, 000,000 

Total number oi families supported 3,250 

Annual sales of — 

I. Northern oysters : bushels 1,740,000 

Value of same $2,000,000 

II. Chesajieake "plants" bushels 940,000 

Value of same ^^750, 000 

Total value of oysters sold annually , $2,750,000 



The investigations of Mr. R. H. Edmonds. — In respect to Baltimore and Maryland, the information to 
be given is due almost entirely to the labors of Mr. R. H. Edmonds, of Baltimore, who investigated the subject in 
the capacity of special agent of the Census. His report for this special region was published in the Journal of 
Commerce, Baltimore, of which Mr. Edmonds was an editor during the summer of 1880, and gave much satisfaction 
to those who were interested in the matter in that city and down Chesapeake bay. If some of his expressions are 
too enthusiastic, they can easily be pardoned. The men of Chesapeake bay believe that their waters cover the very 
best oysters in the world, but my note-books contain a record of a dozen localities, all along the coast, where the 
same assertion is fondly made and sincerely believed. He is a wiser man than I, who attempts to decide among 
their claims and, ex cathedra, to award supremacy to any one district. 

I shall have little to add to Mr. Edmonds' history of the oyster-interests of Maryland, and include all of his 
report in quotation marks: 

General considerations : Introductory. — "The Chesapeake bay and its numerous salt-water tributaries, 
contain proliUc and valuable oyster-beds, probably about equally divided between the two states of Maryland and 
Virginia. Notwithstanding the great importance and value of the oyster-trade of the Chesapeake bay, it is a 
subject upon which there has been no trustworthy information, either as regards its extent, the amount of capital 
invested, or the past and present condition of the business. The legislatures of Maryland and Virginia have, at 
every session for many years, revised and re-revised tiie laws upon this subject for their respective states; but 
have always been content to work in the dark, knowing nothing practically, and never seeing the value of obtaining 
fidl information upon so important an industry. There is, perhaps, no subject of such vital importance to either 
state, that is so little understood. By some it is as greatly overestimated as it is underestimated by others. Many 
who have never lived near the water, and who gain their information from the rose-colored pictures, drawn by 
correspondents who see only the best features of the trade, imagine that an oyster-bed is a mine of wealth, from 
which every oysterman may gather a liberal competence with but little labor. Nothing could be more erroneous. 

"The present report must, at the best, be but the basis for a more elaborate and thorough scientific examination 
of this subject. From the chaos in which I found the business, so far as regards statistical information, I have tried 
to evolve some facts and figures which, by showing the importance of the trade, may cause a more careful study to 
be made of the means to arrest the present depletion of the beds, and provide ways for increasing the natural 
supply of oysters. Until this is done, it is almost useless to hope for wiser laws than those now in existence, many 
of which are not worth the paper upon which they are written. There are so many widelydiflering interests, 
each seeking, through its representatives in the state legislatures, to have such laws enacted as will protect its 
own particular branch of the trade, regardless of what may be desired or needed by other branches, that it is 
utterly useless to expect to please all. I'oliticians, however, dependent upon the votes of the unlearned as well as 
the leai'ued, must seek by all means to please their constituents, however unwise may be their desires. The 
carrying out of this doctrine results in a conflict of oi)iniou among legislators, and no one being willing to relinquish 
his own pet theories, much time is wasted in useless discussions ; and, at last, when a bill is proposed, it is subjected 
to so many amendments that, when finally passed, it would scarcely be recognized by its originator. In this way 
the laws both of Virginia and Maryland, bearing upon the oyster-trade, are often worse than useless; and, if by 
chance a law should be good, the means of enforcing it, and the penalties for violating it, will be so inadequate 


tLat no good results will follow its passage. It is a lamentable fact, that a large part of the oystermen, many of 
whom are negroes, are so ignorant as to be easily led by demagogues. I have been informed by a prominent and 
reliable gentleman in Virginia, that during a late political canvass for the state legislature, one of the candidates, 
in an address to the oystermen, i)romised, upon condition of their voting for him, that, should they desire to break 
any of the oyster-laws, he, as a lawyer, would defend them free of cost. My owu observation leads nie to believe 
that this is by no means an exceptional case. I am inclined to think that just here lies one of the greatest 
hiuderances to the enactment and enforcement of suitable laws. 

"The oyster- trade of the Chesapeake bay is of vast extent, giving employment to thousands of workmen and 
millions of invested capital; and yet there are many intelligent men who believe that the blessings so lavishly 
bestowed by nature upon the tidewater counties of Maryland and Virginia, in the .abundant su]>i)ly of oysters and 
fish, are iu reality productive of more harm than good. This belief is based upon the non-progressive character of 
the oystermen, who, as a class, are illiterate, indolent, and improvident. As the great natural productiveness of 
the soil in tropical countries has tended to retard man's improvement, by taking from him the necessity i'or constant 
labor, so has the abundant supply of oysters in the Chesapeake tended to make the oystermen unwilling to engage 
in any steady occupation. A tongman can, at any time, take his canoe or skiff and catch from the natural rocks 
a few bushels of oysters, for which there is always a market. Having made a dollar or two, he stops work until 
that is used up, often a large part of it being spent for strong drink. When his money is all gone he can repeat 
the same course. Unless spent in the indulgence of intemperate habits, a small amount of money will enable an 
oysterman to live iu comparative comfort. He can readily, and at almost no expense, supply his table in winter 
with an abundance of oysters and ducks, geese and other game, while in summer, lish and crabs may be had simply 
for the catching. So long as they are able to live in this manner, it is almost impossible to get them to do any 
steady farm-work. This cannot, of course, be avoided, as tliey have a right to live iu the manner which best suits 
their taste, although several laws have, at different times, been enacted, which, while not so expressed, were really 
intended to have the effect of making the tongmen, and especially the negroes, engage in other occupations. Could 
this be done without restricting the rights of citizenship, it would prove a great blessing to the negroes themselves, 
as it would lead them to regular work in the cultivation of land; and it is well known that as soon as these people 
are possessed of a house and a few acres of land, they become more law-abiding and industrious. 

"It has generally been a ftivorite idea of the legislators, both of Maryland and Virginia, that each state should 
derive some revenue from the natural oyster-beds belonging to it. To this end many laws have been passed, but 
no satisfactory results have ever been accomplished. The expense of enforcing laws over such an extensive body 
of water as the Chesapeake bay, is necessarily very great. In 1879 the entire amount received from licenses to 
toug, to scrape, and to dredge in Maryland, was less than the cost of maintaining the oyster-police force. This, 
however, was an exceptional year, and very little was collected from dredgers, for reasons given elsewhere." 

The Maryland oyster-police. — The oyster police, to wbich Mr. Edmonds alludes, was organized in 1808, 
according to the law of the Maryland legislature at its session that year, which appi-opriated $22,000 for its 
establishment. This money was to be expended iu purchasing " a steamer and two tenders to be propelled by 
steam, sail, or oars, as the commissioners deemed best". The management of the force was ini rusted to a 
committee composed of the governor, the treasurer, the comptroller, the superintendent of labor and agriculture, 
and the clerk of the court of appeals. The salary of the commander of the torce was fixed at 82,500 (now reduced 
to $1,500) and his bond at $20,000 (now reduced to $10,000). The police-boats were required to be kept constantly 
cruising in search of violators of the oyster-laws, who, when caught, were taken before a magistrate for trial. The 
vessels of the force have been increased from time to time, till they now number one steamer and eight fast-sailing 
sloops and schooners. The sailing-vessels are assigned to certain parts of the bay, and are required to be constantly 
on the alert (except at night and Sunday) to prevent any violation of the laws by dredgers. The steamer is 
generally traveling as rapidly as possible, from one part of the bay to another, always trying to arrive in a locality 
before she is expected, thus hojung to catch illegal dredgers when they least expect it. This steamer, the Leila, 
Captain Travers, was generously placed at the service of Mr. Edmonds, by the fishery commissioners of the state, 
enabling him to obtain information of great value, which could not have been got at otherwise ; and the thanks of 
j\Ir. Edmonds not only, but of the Census Bureau itself, are therefore due and gladly tendered to the commissioners. 

All the boats of the police fleet are supplied with cannon and a large quantity of small-arms, and (piite often 
there is need of the latter, as a fight with the dredgers will occasionally occur. Of late, however, these battles are 
becoming less frequent. 

As appears elsewhere in this report, there has been dissatisfaction with the force ever since it was first 
organized, as it has never been possible to prevent illegal dredging ; but the complaints largely come from those 
who know nothing of the diiiiculties encountered by the oyster police. The number of dredging-boats is so great, 
and the territory over which the force must exercise supervision is so extensive, that it is impossible to arrest all 
who break the laws. The oyster-beds of Maryland " extend from Swan point, Kent county, opposite Baltimore, 
southward down to and up the Potomac — total distance, 125 miles; and east and west across the bay and Tangier 
sound, up all their tributaries as far as salt water reaches, in all depths of water — iu fact, wherever there is salt 


water in Jlarylaml, we have oysters". This is the last official report in regard to the oyster-beds ; since it was made, 
the beds have increased, and large quantities of oysters may now be caught in localities where a few years ago 
there were none. 

Moreover, as will be exhibited subsequently in this report, the laws have never been in satistiictory shai)e for 
the operations of the force, and uncertainty, confusion, and positive hinderaiice in the carrying out of their obvious 
intention, has often arisen, through some misfortune in technical w